Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Lacking specific sum, does Hillary Clinton's infrastructure modernization plan dedicate enough for telecom?

Connect allAmericans to the digital economy with 21st century Internet access.
Clinton believes that high-speed Internet access is not a luxury; it is a necessity for equal opportunity and social mobility in a 21st century economy. That’s why she will finish the job of connecting America’s households to the Internet, committing that by 2020, 100 percent of households in America will have access to affordable broadband that delivers world-class speeds sufficient to meet families’ needs.
Hillary Clinton's Infrastructure Plan: Building Tomorrow's Economy Today

Per the above item from her campaign website, presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton is proposing universal Internet access that's currently required under the U.S. Federal Communications Commission's 2015 Open Internet rulemaking classifying Internet as a common carrier telecommunications (versus information) service.

What's new is Clinton's proposed federal funding programs to help finance the necessary infrastructure to make universal service a reality that would dedicate $275 billion over five years for infrastructure investment. A national infrastructure bank seeded with $25 billion would leverage private capital to generate an additional $225 billion in direct loans, loan guarantees, and other forms of credit enhancement along the lines of what Susan Crawford suggested earlier this year, renewing and expanding the Obama administration's Build America Bonds program. Crawford correctly asserts that there are boatloads of private capital sitting on the sidelines seeking better returns that could be leveraged to undertake the long delayed task of modernizing America's telecommunications infrastructure with fiber to the premise for the Internet age.

The caveat here is Clinton's funding proposals cover all infrastructure modernization needs, including transportation, energy and water systems, constituting an "infrastructure gap" that her campaign notes runs in the trillions of dollars. No specific sum is earmarked for telecom infrastructure. Without that specific dollar amount, the question is will there be enough for it?

Also concerning is Clinton defines telecom infrastructure not in terms of the infrastructure itself, but rather in vague terms of "world class" connection speeds. Connection speed is how the legacy telephone and cable companies define their Internet-based telecom services. It's a backward rather than forward-looking perspective and is central maintaining a paradigm of constrained "broadband" bandwidth that in turn supports high prices and minimal investment in modern infrastructure such as fiber to the premise (FTTP).

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