Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Congress should reject telco whining over broadband requirements in economic stimulus measure

Economic stimulus legislation on a congressional fast track that would allocate $6 billion (House version) and $9 billion (Senate version) for broadband telecommunications infrastructure build out to underserved areas is unsurprisingly eliciting whining from the big telcos.

Industry representatives and think tanks that front for them complain the measures' minimum connectivity speed requirements for wireline and wireless service to underserved areas as well as open access requirements would not dispose them to applying for broadband infrastructure grants, loans and loan guarantees.

What they want instead are tax breaks just as telcos received under the 1996 Communications Act that was to have brought broadband to all Americans in a decade's time. Bottom line: business as usual. Continued proprietary (and geographically limited and underpowered) DSL access over crappy, aging (depreciating from the telcos' perspective) copper cable, maintaining wireless Internet connectivity at or below the less than impressive capabilities of current deployments and continuing to tell millions of Americans to go suck a satellite or live in dial up purgatory.

Congress should reject these whiners that have led the U.S on a race to the bottom when it comes to advanced IP-based telecommunications services. The telcos propagated a broadband boondoogle with the 1996 Communications Act. Broadband access is too important to allow them to repeat the fiasco.

Maintaining open access requirements in the stimulus legislation will assist local governments and citizens by providing seed funding to form their own fiber cooperatives. That will allow them to break free of the telco/cable duopoly that has failed to provide them adequate broadband access for their current and future needs.

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