Wednesday, March 07, 2007

The case for local government broadband initiatives

Thanks to Eldo resident Ron Britvich for passing along this comprehensive report by Becca Vargo Daggett of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance.

Its premise is the "last mile" of the U.S. telecommunications infrastructure is a broken down highway onramp, clogged with Internet traffic jams of data on their way to the 10,000 lane fiber optic freeway that carries Internet traffic. It posits the best way to clear the backup is to bring fiber optic cable to all homes, which Daggett notes unlike copper-based DSL has a built in future growth capacity for decades to come. Currently the overall carrying capacity of the Internet in the U.S. is quite low because of the traffic jam on this critical "last mile." The Internet is only as strong as its weakest link, Daggett observes, and it's pretty weak in the United States.

The privately owned cable/telephone company duopoly that provides nearly all Americans their Internet access isn't likely to upgrade to fiber for the foreseeable and under current regulations has no business incentive to offer universal broadband access.

Daggett asserts that high speed Internet should be treated like other critical public infrastructure such as highways and municipal utilities like water and sewers. She lays out several scenarios for publicly owned, open access high speed Internet networks that contrary to the fears of telcos and cable companies don't cut them out of the picture. The report includes several case studies of local government open access networks. It also features a very clear and thorough description of various wire line and wireless high speed Internet technologies.

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