Sunday, March 12, 2017

West Virginia telecom infrastructure initiative embodies 3 fatal public policy flaws

Charleston Gazette-Mail | Groups push for broadband expansion in WV: Senate President Mitch Carmichael, R-Jackson, said Tuesday that at least two broadband-related bills are in the works, and lawmakers expect to introduce legislation in the coming days. The Senate bill would offer tax credits for companies to help recoup costs of bringing internet to remote areas, said Carmichael, an executive with internet provider Frontier Communications. The bill also may authorize the state to provide loan guarantees to internet firms that plan to expand broadband service. Carmichael said some internet providers want legislation designed to bring internet service to households that don’t currently have it, while other companies support measures that would increase internet speeds.

“We want to [encourage] competition,” Carmichael said. “If we’re going to do investment of any type, it should go to the areas that have no service.” Generation West Virginia, AARP West Virginia and the state Broadband Enhancement Council held a press conference at the state Capitol Tuesday to raise awareness about the importance of high-speed internet service and to unveil a plan — called Gig Ready — to bolster support for broadband expansion.

This West Virginia effort although well intended contains three fatal flaws that are unfortunately frequently embraced by other states and by federal policymakers.
  1. Offering loan guarantees and tax credits to legacy telephone and cable companies to invest in advanced telecommunications infrastructure in the belief that will help achieve universal service. It will not. The incumbents' short term business models are designed to extract maximum cash flow from current assets and do not allow them to make significant long term capital investments in new infrastructure. Tax credits and loan guarantees can't overcome that hard economic reality.
  2. The belief that the role of government vis telecommunications infrastructure is to promote market competition. Telecom infrastructure is a natural monopoly and can and never will be a competitive market. Promoting market competition in telecom infrastructure is like promoting water skiing in the arctic.
  3. Sloganeering. Call it Game of Gigs or Gig Ready, slogans can't construct telecom infrastructure. They are not so much aspirations for the future but rather reflect a poverty of action and commitment (harder) relative to a surplus of talk (far easier).

Thursday, March 09, 2017

Net neutrality hurts health care and helps porn, Republican senator claims | Ars Technica

Net neutrality hurts health care and helps porn, Republican senator claims | Ars Technica: Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.) agreed that net neutrality rules harm ISP investment and offered a lengthy analogy to explain why. Johnson said he wants to cut through the “rhetoric, slogans, and buzzwords,” before saying that enforcing net neutrality rules is like letting too many people use a bridge and ruin people’s lawns. Net neutrality rules, he said, also give pornography the same level of network access as remote medical services.

This is an unfortunate outcome of the misplaced obsession with the "net neutrality" aspect of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission's 2015 Open Internet rulemaking that erased the line between legacy and advanced telecommunications services by reclassifying Internet service as a common carrier telecommunications utility under Title II of the Communications Act. The obsession with net neutrality is so exaggerated that the term has become synonymous with the rulemaking.

The Open Internet rulemaking does properly require ISPs to treat all telecommunications traffic equally and without preference as to content. But with millions of Americans left offline and many still using circa 1994 dialup access that was state of the art when Bill Clinton was serving his first term as president, the higher value of the rulemaking is bringing Internet service under the universal service and anti-redlining requirements of Title II that have governed telephone service for decades -- and not debating whether the network should give priority to porn or any other information. Those requirements also comport with Metcalfe's Law, which holds a network is only as valuable as the number of subscribers on it.
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