Broadband stimulus package should be thoughtful

Wired has a thoughtful article about the potential (good and bad) for a broadband stimulus initiative. There is much speculation that the incoming adminstration will, among other spending initiatives, provide funds for broadband deployment.

Ironically, taking fiber to every home and business in America (about 80 million premises), would be much less expensive than many of the other "bailout" initiatives and would be much more likely to have positive effects. The total cost would probably be around $175 billion if done the right way, which is a series of well-designed local and regional initiatives pursuing a single open access, open services network with all telecom services provided by the private sector (and the network, the digital road system, managed locally or regionally as a public good).

Ownership and management structures should be allowed to vary; in some places direct municipal ownership might be the best approach. In other parts of the country, a regional broadband authority or a broadband coop might be more appropriate.

What we don't need is handouts to the incumbent telcos, who have, for the most part, diligently pursued failed business models and who have stubbornly refused to provide affordable business class services in the face growing demand. And we don't need a Federal Bureau of Telecommunications creating an Orwellian nightmare of centrally managed services. Local and regional governments have successfully managed road networks locally for decades. We can use this tried and true approach to build digital road systems. The Interstate Highway System is a good example of useful Federal intervention: Federal funds financed the development of highways, but states took over ownership and management once they were built.

We now just need to push that down a level, as what is badly needed is NOT more "information superhighways," but instead local connections to homes and businesses. When you get down to hooking up local property, this is best managed locally. Do we really want State or Federal agencies plowing up our yards and streets? Better to work with local governments, who already do this very well with water, sewer, and roads.