Sunday, July 23, 2006

El Dorado telecom market needs local providers

El Dorado County’s market for voice and data telecommunications is stuck in the past, set up to serve the county as it existed nearly two decades ago but woefully behind where it needs to be today.

What the county needs to bring it up to date are nimble, locally owned and operated providers — enterprises to play the telecom equivalent of what El Dorado Savings Bank is to Bank of America.

The big, out of state domiciled Fortune 500 telecom behemoths are concentrating their growth strategies on large urban markets and on television and video services — services El Dorado County needs far less urgently than clear, reliable digital voice service and fast broadband Internet access. They have huge balance sheets and a nationwide territory to contend with and can’t focus their attention on a single, underserved market like El Dorado County. They are in the words of AT&T CEO Ed Whitacre in the “big pipes” business — providing the freeways that carry large amounts of telecom traffic. That’s a good business model for AT&T — to be the long haul carrier, the Internet backbone provider. It should pull out of local markets and make way for smaller, local telcos to provide services that AT&T by its actions (or more accurately, lack thereof) clearly does not want to offer.

What El Dorado County needs to compliment AT&T’s interstate and international digital highway system is a local telecom transportation department comprised of providers who can pave over its aging, deteriorating telecom roads and highways that are plagued with potholes of poor line quality and too narrow to deliver broadband Internet services.

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