The United States suffers from costly and disparate Internet access due to a vertically integrated business model based on the old copper telephone network. Under that model, the network infrastructure and the telecommunications services sold over it are provided by a single company such as AT&T or Verizon. It’s the same model used by cable companies, where the network operators that bring the cable to customer premises “own” the customer and bill for separate or bundled services on a monthly subscription basis. Google Fiber also operates under this business model.
That business model is inherently limited because it can expand and upgrade service only to the extent new customers and revenues can be added quickly enough to generate a rapid return on the money invested to build out the infrastructure. That circumstance and the high cost of constructing telecommunications infrastructure naturally make telcos and cable companies very conservative when it comes to expanding their networks.
That risk aversion in turn has brought about widespread market failure. There are potential buyers clamoring for service but the telephone and cable companies decline to provide it. This is essentially where the U.S. has been stuck for the past decade, creating massive frustration for consumers and for state and local governments hoping to improve Internet telecommunications access that has grown increasingly vital for their communities and economies.
Fortunately, there is a way out of the mire with open access fiber networks as Andrew Cohill of Wide Open Networks explains in this article appearing in the March/April issue of Broadband Communities magazine. Highly recommended reading for government officials and consumers.