As I’m sure you’ve heard, the FCC has been calling for large-scale deployment of broadband internet throughout America. Their recent report has lots of things to say about the deployment and availability of broadband communications to Americans (**SPOILER** “…we must conclude that broadband is not being deployed in a reasonable and timely fashion to all Americans” )
They do note, however, that there isn’t really a good business case to provide high speed services to the roughly 26 million Americans that don’t have access to proper Netflixy speeds. You know what could solve that? A little issue we talked about before, and on the podcast this week: municipal and local internet companies. This has been a big issue in the news lately, and for good reason: Why would a state want to limit the options available to their citizens?
Of course, TWC and Comcast have been catching a lot of flak for this bill. They’re large, successful businesses who are using their hefty wallet to back legislation that will eliminate the competition. There are two major issues with this: 1) Governments aren’t nearly as efficient as private industry, and2) if there were any real money to be made, these companies would already have lines in the area.
You know why governments across this great land use contractors to do all of the major infrastructure work? Because the cost of finding, hiring, training and managing employees to work for a short amount of time (not career work) is very difficult and time consuming [read: expensive] so the work is contracted out to a company that specializes in serving that specific need. If the local government wants to establish a high speed internet connection for its residents, why should it not be able to? It stands to reason that any municipality that is interested in establishing such a service has no other alternative. If TWC or Comcast already have lines in the area, then local pokies would never stand a chance while competing against the efficiency of a private business.
So this bill that is being allowed to pass not only hurts citizens who already suffer from dial-up-itis, but could set an ugly precedent for other areas. There should be no reason to allow this bill to become law. If local governments take action and provide a service to their citizens, then the consumers win. If the big TelCos get skurred and start adding services in rural areas to prevent municipal services from springing up, the consumers win.
When you think about it, this bill not only flies in the face of logic, but goes directly against the FCC. This is not only detrimental to consumers, but to education. A small town in a rural area has very limited options in terms of telecommunications access. A proper high-speed line is most likely too expensive for the local school system to afford. However, if a municipal telecom stepped in, the cost of high speed access for the school could be greatly offset.
Other benefits of high speed internet access in rural areas include increased cash flow due to online transactions. If Billy-Bob can sell his custom rocking chairs online, he stands a good chance to make more than he would at a local crafts fair, and more often. Auntie Jo can start selling her garage full of glass cats to other crazy old ladies. Then they each buy a new car, which helps the local government because they collect registration fees.
Of course, anyone who can read installation manuals and fill out paperwork could hop in and provide services to these folks, but that’s not the issue at hand. I’m worried that by putting large roadblocks in the way of local infrastructure will forever encapsulate these folks in a screechy modem-filled past.
Ars Technica: http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/news/2011/05/us-still-hasnt-gotten-its-act-together-on-broadband-deployment.ars
FCC Broadband Progress Report : http://transition.fcc.gov/Daily_Releases/Daily_Business/2011/db0520/FCC-11-78A1.pdf
Photo Credit : http://www.flickr.com/photos/declanjewell/2100809865/