Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Palo Alto fiber project represents important test of open access concept

Here's an update from the Palo Alto Daily News on Palo Alto, California's efforts to put in place an open access fiber optic network. If the city council gives the OK to this project -- which doesn't require the municipality to fund or operate the system -- it will be a renewed test case of the open access network concept .

The open access model is emerging as a public/private initiative to build out broadband faster than the proprietary infrastructure owned and operated by telcos and cable companies which are unable and/or unwilling to invest in upgrading their plants. The latter have resisted open access initiatives by local governments, arguing they represent unfair competition and in some cases have gone to the courts to seek to halt the projects.

That's a poor strategy because the telcos and cable companies would benefit from open access fiber projects since they could sell customers improved IP-based services faster than they might otherwise could since it would take far longer for them to build their own proprietary fiber infrastructures. By going to court to block or slow these projects, the telcos and cable companies are shooting themselves in the foot. They also risk provoking local governments to counter with eminent domain actions to take over aging and increasingly obsolete metal-wire based systems in the name of economic development.

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