Thursday, January 28, 2016

Unpacking incumbent opposition to KentuckyWired

Tom Eblen: Some telecoms, anti-government groups oppose new state broadband network | Lexington Herald-Leader:  The Kentucky Telecom Association, which represents 15 rural Internet providers, thinks KentuckyWired should be reconsidered, claiming it would duplicate existing infrastructure and undermine existing businesses that need their state and school service contracts.
There is likely an element of truth in incumbents' claims that publicly owned middle mile telecom infrastructure would duplicate existing privately-owned infrastructure in some parts of the state. But that doesn't mean it shouldn't be built. However, it should be part of an integrated plan to build a complete network of publicly owned last mile fiber to the premise infrastructure.
KentuckyWired is a partnership between the state and several companies that are building and would operate the 3,200-mile “middle-mile” network linking all 120 counties. From each county, any Internet provider could lease network space, build “last-mile” lines and compete to offer services to homes and businesses.
This is wishful thinking based on a fundamental misapprehension of the market economics of private owned telecom infrastructure. Investor-owned Internet service providers aren't typically going to be interested in connecting to publicly owned middle mile infrastructure to build out fiber to serve all premises. For two main reasons. First and most important, because the ROI on last mile is too far out in the future to make investment worthwhile. Second, because connecting their last mile networks to publicly owned middle mile infrastructure is contrary to the proprietary, closed access architecture of their business models that prefer maintaining control over both the middle and last miles.

There's a third and less likely possibility -- that KentuckyWired will make it easier for local governments to build FTTP infrastructure serving their residents. It's improbable for most except for those with pre-existing municipal utilities due to local governments lacking the financial wherewithal as they struggle to meet existing and future obligations such as employee pensions.

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