Monday, December 22, 2014

Incumbent telcos, cablecos should reconsider shunning wholesale open access fiber networks

Incumbent telephone and cable companies that enjoy a natural monopoly over last mile Internet infrastructure connecting customer premises have been loath to offer services over open access, wholesale fiber to the premise (FTTP) networks like the Utah Telecommunications Open Infrastructure Agency (UTOPIA) system. In some states, they’ve even successfully supported legislation outlawing or making the creation of publicly operated open access networks difficult. As monopolies, they want control over both the “pipe” serving customer premises and the services provided over it. Having control over the premise connection is essential to this business model since it puts the incumbents in the dominant position with regard to selling their proprietary services.
But with a growing chorus of calls for competition for Internet service from the White House, members of Congress, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission and consumer advocates, the threat of federal antitrust litigation to break up the incumbents’ last mile monopolies has increased

Given that possibility, incumbents might want to reconsider their flat refusal to do business with wholesale open access fiber networks. If they chose to purchase access to wholesale networks to sell retail services to customer premises, they’d likely appear to be far less insular and monopolistic in the eyes of the government. Doing business with wholesale, open access fiber networks would also spare the incumbents –largely reliant on metal wire and cable last mile infrastructure – from the expense of having to upgrade their last mile plants to fiber in areas where these networks exist and allow them to reach customer premises outside their limited footprints.

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