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[ NNSquad ] Re: Additional or differentiated services

The idea that broadband is a public utility that should be extended everywhere contradicts the notion of water, sewer, and natural gas services. Many, many rural residents have no access to public water, sewer, and gas systems and have to provide these things on their own by way of wells, septic systems, and propane or butane tanks filled out of truck. Broadband networking is understandably rare in these settings as well, with the exception of satellite broadband which is ubiquitous but high in latency and unsuitable for Skype. Even where government is the service provider, there are cases in which it's simply too expensive to provide certain utility services, so I don't see that the utility model really makes the case for universal high-speed, low-latency broadband.

  [ On the other hand, the vast majority of persons in the U.S.
    *are* served by utility-based structures for water, power,
    natural gas, etc.  Here in L.A. my water and power are provided
    by a city-owned system.  Expensive?  Yeah.  But on the whole the
    power at least is still a bit less expensive than the surrounding
    private utility areas.  Broadband access is now in the necessary
    functions arena, we need to treat it as such.

          -- Lauren Weinstein
             NNSquad Moderator ]

On 8/27/2010 11:47 AM, Robert Oliver wrote:
On 8/27/2010 12:51 PM, George Ou wrote:

The most extreme form of Net Neutrality <http://www.digitalsociety.org/2010/08/the-three-extreme-forms-of-net-neutrality/> advocates taking private property used for delivering non-Internet services and mandating that it be used for Internet capacity. I know Bob would love to see this and he has no respect for private property which he like others mistakenly believes is public property <http://www.digitalsociety.org/2010/08/techdirt-mistakens-broadband-for-public-property/>, but it has no legal foundation. ...

While it may be inappropriate to consider the existing "last mile" broadband infrastructure as "public property," it is likewise inappropriate not to realize that it should be dealt with as a public utility, just like electric lines, water lines and sewer lines. It is simply cost-prohibitive (and certainly inefficient) to run multiple broadband connections to each home (especially rural ones being subsidized already by the UTF). The "last mile" should be managed more efficiently for municipal use, just like we figured out years ago for phones, power, water and sewer.

Should a municipality desire to "own the infrastructure" (such as Kutztown, PA; an example of municipal fiber suspiciously absent from Mr. Ou's essay on "failed municipal broadband <http://www.digitalsociety.org/2010/03/why-municipal-fiber-has-not-succeeded#muni-failure>"), they should be allowed. If, on the other hand, the more common model is used where a private company builds and manages the infrastructure, it should be regulated like the monopoly it is and forced to share the bandwidth, just as I can now, here in Pennsylvania, purchase electric power from a variety of providers, but it is delivered by the local transmission network managed by Execlon / PECO, and regulated by the PA PUC. I'm not saying the PA PUC does a great job of representing PA's consumers vs. the companies they're supposed to regulate, but it's a start. Also note that that "telephone companies" have promised regulatory commissions that they will deliver broadband / fiber to a wide range of areas, and been allowed rate increases to fund that. Actual delivery has not matched the promises. Better regulation and oversight is definitely needed.

And to be clear: I am a "small government" proponent. Smaller government and fewer regulations are my desire, except in cases where it makes sense. Last mile broadband is one of those cases where it makes sense. Competition in the last mile does not make sense. Running a half dozen fiber optic lines to every home in the US in order to get a free, open market competitive situation simply is not going to happen and is not cost effective. We can't even get a single fiber connection to every home at this point, much less a half dozen. And it's just a waste anyway. When choice of electric provider was introduced in PA, we didn't string six more power lines to every home.

To dispute that broadband last-mile networks should not be treated as a public utility is just as mistaken as calling them public property.

-- Richard Bennett Senior Research Fellow Information Technology and Innovation Foundation Washington, DC