Tuesday, September 01, 2009

What do fuel efficiency standards and broadband have in common?

Like the decades-long policy debate over fuel efficiency standards for automobiles, a new one is springing up. This time it's over minimum broadband speeds with incumbent telecommunications providers arguing for lower standards and consumers demanding higher numbers.

Free Press advocates for a "future proof" telecommunications infrastructure. Based on current, proven technology, that means fiber optics to the premises. Free Press also correctly observes that unlike automotive technology that can be incrementally improved to deliver more fuel efficient vehicles, telecommunications is basic infrastructure and thus requires the right choices to be made up front to protect it from obsolescence and provide sufficient flexibility to accommodate both current and future needs.

Fortunately, there's a way around this debate, which the Federal Communications Commission will soon discover is unlikely lead to a useful outcome or do anything to improve America's fragmented and inadequate telecommunications infrastructure. It's empowering local governments and nonprofit telecommunications cooperatives to build and own their own fiber telecommunications infrastructure -- and ultimately define broadband on their own terms.

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