Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Obama flat wrong, at odds with FCC in framing telecom infrastructure as competitive market

Municipal Broadband Battles | Al Jazeera America: Amid concerns in some markets that big telecoms and cable companies are providing service that is too slow and too expensive, some cities are starting their own Internet services, spending millions of dollars to bring super-high-speed, or gigabit, Internet service to their communities through a new fiber-optic infrastructure. Proponents call it the single most important piece of infrastructure of the 21st century, attracting businesses, bolstering education and raising property values.

President Barack Obama has declared community broadband, as it’s called, a key to economic prosperity. “Today I’m making my administration’s position clear on community broadband. I’m saying I’m on the side of competition,” he said. (Emphasis added)
The problem with the president's framing telecom infrastructure as a competitive market is he's just flat out wrong. It can never be a truly competitive market with many sellers and choices for consumers due to the high cost of deploying fiber to the premise infrastructure. Those high costs have kept telcos and cablecos from upgrading their legacy infrastructures and building out fiber to all customer premises in their service territories to replace the outdated metallic cables designed for voice telephone and cable TV service of decades past. Instead, they've built limited fiber to the premise in selected high density "footprints" and redlined countless American neighborhoods, leaving many still on dialup that was state of the art technology when Bill Clinton was serving his first term as president.

Moreover, by furthering the notion that telecom infrastructure is a competitive market offering, Obama is at odds with the Federal Communications Commission that -- at Obama's urging -- adopted a common carrier regulatory framework early this year predicated on telecom infrastructure as a monopolistic market. Consequently, the FCC's Open Internet rulemaking requires Internet service to be offered to all customer premises requesting it -- as telephone service before it -- under the universal service and nondiscrimination provisions of Title II the federal Communications Act.

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