Re-Defining Broadband: The FCC's big problem

Chris Mitchell at MuniNetworks has a great piece on the dilemma faced by the FCC, which is tasked with coming up with a national plan for broadband. The FCC has to balance the interests of the incumbent telephone and cable providers with the needs of the public. And the "public" includes an increasing number of home-based workers and businesses for whom the current "little broadband" services are grossly inadequate.

Heavy-handed Federal regulation is not likely to fix the problem. Making it easier for localities to invest in basic telecom infrastructure and operate it as an open access broadband digital road system is a third way. Open access broadband provides a graceful path for incumbents to slowly migrate from their antiquated copper-based systems to high performance fiber and wireless networks without going broke. And the open access approach keeps local governments out of the telecom and broadband service business--leaving it to the private sector, where it belongs.

Mitchell puts his finger directly on the problem, which is the incumbents have been reluctant to change their business models. So their advice to the FCC is to change little or nothing, because that is the path of least work for them. But it does nothing to make American businesses and American workers more competitive in the global economy. Other countries are investing heavily in fiber to the premise, while the U.S. tries to prop up fifty year old copper technology.

But open access provides enough that the FCC, communities, and incumbent providers ought to all be able to agree to at least remove the current regulatory stumbling blocks to this alternative.

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