Wednesday, December 22, 2010

FCC ruling heralds regulatory end of "broadband" era

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission's decision this week barring providers of fixed premises wireline Internet connectivity from selectively rationing (or blocking) bandwidth based on the source and/or content marks the regulatory beginning of the end of the "broadband" era. Whereas broadband once defined a premium telecommunications service offered at a premium price, the FCC is effectively declaring that an Internet connection is an Internet connection regardless of what information or content consumers receive from it. ISPs cannot devote greater bandwidth to some information or content (for example, their own proprietary content) while affording less bandwidth to other information or content.

This is the right decision that recognizes the Internet as a de facto common carrier telecommunications network similar in that regard to traditional voice telephone service. The large national legacy telcos and cable companies warned before the FCC adopted the ruling that it would discourage capital investment in their infrastructures, which the FCC noted early this year continue to leave an estimated 7 million U.S homes offline.

There's no evidence the business case for more network investment by the large national legacy telcos and cablecos would have been improved had the commission come down on the other side of the issue. Their business models are constrained by the need to pay their shareholders generous dividends as they have done for decades and by high labor costs to modernize and build out their plants outside of densely populated urban and suburban areas.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wow, is this a Pollyanna-ish way to read the FCC's decision. Experts in telecom law (save those within AT&T, Comcast, et. al.) are clear that this is the END of net neutrality, at the hands of "our government" (where "our" means any corporation larger than $10 Million in net worth).

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