Friday, September 08, 2006

America stands at broadband crossroads

Much of America like El Dorado County remains stuck with an outdated telecom infrastructure better suited to the 1970s and 1980s than 2006 and beyond. Perceptive commentators are rightly beginning to ask deep questions to determine why that’s the case and why market competition hasn’t spurred more rapid deployment of advanced telecommunications services.

Al Senia suggests in America’s Network that the lack of a national telecom policy rather than fostering vibrant competition benefiting consumers amid minimal regulatory oversight is actually holding us back. Another article appearing in techdirt postulates a key reason is telecom infrastructure is an inherently uncompetitive monopolistic system just like roads and highways. We don’t see competition for thoroughfares because they are so expensive to build and maintain that the only the government can afford to run them.

Given the very slow deployment of telecom infrastructure, it appears increasingly possible that private sector providers despite their substantial resources won’t be able to rapidly raise the billions of dollars of investment capital that will be necessary to expeditiously put the telecom infrastructure on a par with those of other nations that are now surpassing the U.S.

The nation may well need a huge national telecom infrastructure authority like the Eisenhower administration’s massive federal highway project in the 1950s to get us caught up. Otherwise, America may fall further behind and become economically uncompetitive with other nations, relegated to driving the telecom equivalent of the old Route 66 while the rest of the world travels on modern freeway systems.


Anonymous said...

As a member of the telecommunication industry (I work for Verizon in the Sacramento area), I can tell you for a fact that the regulatory stranglehold placed on the larger companies does limit their ability to quickly respond to market needs and desires. That said, I believe that now that AT&T owns this territory, they are satisfied to sit back and rack in the revenue without committing to and additional investment in infrastructure.

I say this because if you drive along North Shingle Road from Highway 50, you will see un terminated cable strung along a couple miles of the road that has been that way since the negotiations started for AT&T to buy SBC. There is a B-Box along this road that has space for a DSLAM (the equipment the allows DSL) to be installed and the cable terminated into. Yet the cable still hangs, deteriorating.

Fred Pilot said...

A Verizon spokesman admitted this week (see "More evidence AB 2987 won't benefit El Dorado County") that if regulation was reduced via AB 2987, Verizon still wouldn't compete with AT&T. So your own company has undercut your assertion that regulation somehow prevents Verizon from competing with AT&T. It's not regulation holding Verizon back but rather a simple unwillingness to compete with AT&T. Verizon by its own admission would rather remain in the comfort zone of its existing wireline service area. Meanwhile, consumers lose out.

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