Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Hillary Clinton's telecom infrastructure initiative vague, parrots incumbent talking points

Hillary Clinton's Infrastructure Plan: Building Tomorrow's Economy Today: Connect all Americans to the digital economy with 21st century Internet access. Clinton believes that high-speed Internet access is not a luxury; it is a necessity for equal opportunity and social mobility in a 21st century economy. That’s why she will finish the job of connecting America’s households to the Internet, committing that by 2020, 100 percent of households in America will have access to affordable broadband that delivers world-class speeds sufficient to meet families’ needs.

Clinton's initiative doesn't detail how her plan will fill in the gaps in America's incomplete and patchwork telecommunications infrastructure and "finishing the job" of serving all U.S. households.

Clinton will also build upon the Obama Administration’s efforts to increase not just broadband access but also broadband adoption, both by fostering greater competition in local broadband markets to bring down prices and by investing in low-income communities and in digital literacy programs. In addition, Clinton is committed to expanding the Obama Administration’s efforts to connect “anchor” institutions — like public school and public libraries — to high-speed broadband. 

Here, Clinton's statement reiterates the three classic talking points -- the latter two long offered up by legacy incumbent telephone and cable companies -- that have distracted from the primary goal of building telecom infrastructure over the past 15 years or so:

Increasing competition in local "broadband markets"

The fundamental flaw here is local or "last mile" telecom infrastructure is not a market any more than other infrastructure such as electrical power distribution lines, water lines and roads and highways. It's a natural monopoly. Calling for competition here ignores basic economics.

Digital literacy programs

This is a favorite stalling tactic of the legacy incumbent telephone and cable companies to divert attention away from infrastructure deficits and keep the calendar fixed at 1996 when many people were just starting to connect their home computers to the Internet via dial up service. The argument is people only need the Internet if they're "digitally literate" so we don't have to be in a hurry to invest in infrastructure and can look good by calling for increased digital literacy.

Connecting anchor institutions

Like digital literacy, this makes for nice talking points and sound bites. After all, who could be against better Internet service for the kids at school and city hall. Unfortunately, telecom infrastructure projects to serve these settings don't typically extend to the adjacent neighborhoods and homes where students and constituents live and need better connectivity to interact with these community institutions.

1 comment:

Doug Dawson said...

Building to anchor institutions in rural communities actually makes it harder to get other fiber there. When a small town looks at building fiber and discovers that City hall already has fiber from the state and that the schools are connected, they lose the potential revenues that those anchor institutions would provide to help to pay for fiber to everybody else. The practical consequences of this makes this one of the dumbest ideas ever.

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