A fight for broadband is an instrument of democracy


What a fight for broadband tells us about democracy | GigaOM

My Comments

A situation that is repeating itself in many US towns and communities that don’t have proper broadband is the desire for these towns to benefit from the broadband service. They will typically use tactics like a wired or wireless broadband Internet service funded by the local government, perhaps in partnership with a telecommunications firm. It can even encompass the provision of full infrastructure by local interests for annexation by a local telecommunications carrier in order to hasten the provision of real Internet service.

But established telecommunications and cable-TV firms like Comcast who have wireline monopoly over these areas fear the arrival of these competitive elements. They have established requirements on towns who want to set up such services to run referenda about such services and run highly-funded campaigns against these services when they come to the vote.

This situation creates a breeding ground for redlining and an anticompetitive trade environment for Internet and other advanced telecommunications services. The redlining can occur based on perceived “lack of profitability” for communities even though the community will benefit economically through access to advanced telecommunications.

At the moment, the Federal Communications Commission are in the throes of reforming the Universal Service Fund which financially offsets universal-service obligations for basic telephony service through the USA. Here, they want to encompass broadband Internet and cable-TV services in this mix and local communities should also lobby the FCC on this issue.

The FCC could also work better by allowing European-style competition regimes like local-loop unbundling for ADSL or mandated access to pits, ducts and poles for cable and fibre-optic service. This ends up favouring the customers through what I have observed in France and the UK.

As well, the Federal Trade Commission could be allowed to be involved in issues concerning anticompetitive behaviour in telecommunications-service provisioning. This can allow for antitrust aspects to be investigated as well as other standards concerning telecommunications service.

But I would see this more likely occurring under a Democrat administration rather than a Republican administration which favours the big corporations and anticompetitive trading. As well, where there is lively competition, there is a greater chance for people to take up the technology and a greater chance for innovation.

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