We Need Fiber in Western Mass — and In Our Politicians, Too. — Medium: What’s infuriating is how our telecommunications regulatory system failed us. It has been many years since the government realized that speedy internet connectivity is a vital necessity, like electricity or phone service. Indeed, in the early part of the century President George W. Bush promised that affordable high speed Internet would be available to all Americans — by 2007. President Obama made similar promises. There was considerable precedent.Levy's right. As I discuss in my 2015 eBook Service Unavailable: America's Telecommunications Infrastructure Crisis, it's been known for many years the United States needed to modernize its telecom infrastructure by replacing the metal cable of the legacy telephone and cable companies with fiber optic infrastructure to deliver digital today's Internet protocol-based services. But no transition plan was put in place and executed. So here we are today with woefully inadequate infrastructure. What's happening in western Massachusetts is a microcosm of how the broader national crisis is playing out.
To get telephone services in rural areas, the FCC established a Universal Service Fund. Something similar was proposed for last-mile internet. But it has yet to appear. In Massachusetts, federal stimulus funds went to “middle-mile” efforts — not actually providing service to homes. Schools and libraries in Western Mass had internet, but not actual people.
Segmenting telecom infrastructure into "middle mile" and "last mile" is part and parcel of the incremental thinking that has led to the current crisis. As Levy points out, middle mile gets built but the last mile is frequently neglected. Instead, we need to think of telecom infrastructure more holistically as a single, integrated delivery mechanism. Just as an interstate highway links to secondary roads and together form useful transportation infrastructure, the middle mile is useless unless it can connect to the last mile. Connecting as many premises as possible also observes Metcalfe's Law, wherein the value of a communications network increases with the number of users connected to it.