Sunday, February 17, 2008

Tennessee broadband build out debate highlights conflict between public and private interests

The Tennessee broadband build out bloodbath is heating up, according to the The Tennessean. The cable industry is running TV ads suggesting AT&T will redline rural areas if the state enacts AT&T-backed legislation putting the state rather than the local governments in charge of issuing Internet Protocol TV franchises.

The redlined areas will likely remain unconnected for decades from AT&T's new U-Verse fiber and copper based service offering IPTV, voice and high speed Internet. AT&T denies it redlines in the dozen states where it has rolled out U-Verse. Wrong, according to a couple of industry analysts quoted in the story. AT&T lacks patient capital to invest in providing a wider base of U-Verse service and therefore installs U-Verse infrastructure in selected areas only where it believes it will get the quickest return on investment.

This story aptly illustrates the clash between public and private interests that has produced the incomplete and balkanized crazy quilt telecommunications infrastructure that has effectively divided the U.S. into two nations: one with access to advanced telecommunications services based on broadband Internet and one without. Public policymakers are rightly concerned about this situation given the increasingly important role of broadband access to the economy.

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