Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Lawrence Kansas mulls common carrier fiber infrastructure mandate

Lawrence City Hall struggles with what role to play in broadband competition / City commissioners are being asked to make a decision on a technical question commonly referred to as “common carriage" or "open access” of future fiber optic networks. Common carriage would allow for multiple Internet service providers to operate on a single network of fiber optic cables rather than each company burying its own set of cables.

It's difficult to understand why city staff is grappling with this question. So-called facilities-based competition is wasteful. There's no point in having redundant fiber optic infrastructure when a single strand of fiber can handle all the Internet traffic the city could possibly generate over the foreseeable. Open access common carrier infrastructure would also enable competing providers to offer Internet-based services, benefiting consumers.

Allowing a provider to build its own infrastructure rather than treating it as common carriage might well prove more financially expedient in the short term since private providers would be motivated to quickly build out fiber to serve neighborhoods deemed most immediately profitable. But once that's done, the rest of the city would likely be left unconnected. ("Hello, this is Lawrence via dialup. Is anybody there? Anybody at all?")

The policy question under consideration in Lawrence is being mirrored at the federal level as the U.S. Federal Communications Commission is considering placing Internet telecommunications under common carrier regulation under Title II of the federal Communications Act.
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