04 February 2018

Why Us Broadband Sucks, and How to Fix It

The nickel version is stop throwing money the for profit companies, and actually build the infrastructure ourselves.

You can, do this in the same way that we established power and telephone service in rural areas in the past, which involved cross subsidies to support rural service and the establishment of rural co-ops to actually provide the service.

Noted telecommunications advocate Harold Feld (link above) goes in a different direction, he suggests that infrastructure be publicly provided, and suggests that this can be done through the expansion of unlicensed spectrum, which naturally creates a competitive marketplace:
The beauty of modern communications networks is that we can actually break up the supply chain and target subsidies to be much more specific. We can subsidize infrastructure instead of subsidizing carriers. The advantage of this is that by subsidizing infrastructure, we can subsidize infrastructure for many potential competitors (or at least more than one), rather than basically having a monopoly provider we either need to regulate up to the eyebrows to make sure we actually get decent, affordable service in exchange for the subsidy. Additionally, we have a lot of different ways to lower cost that actually lower cost. If we do that, we can actually see local businesses and local institutions willing and able to provide service for profits that, while perfectly reasonable for a local business, would be utterly uninteresting to even a small traditional carrier.

He then gives the example of WISPs (wireless ISPs) as to how this would generally function, but that the important bit is that the infrastructure has to be held commonly in some manner
WISPs aren’t the answer. WISPs are part of the answer. But, more importantly, WISPs provide a real life demonstration that we do not need to rely on the traditional “find a single carrier and pay the carrier” to bring broadband to rural America. If we focus on providing infrastructure, either indirectly by providing necessary inputs (like spectrum) or directly (for example, by building towers or backhaul fiber), we will see entities interested and eager to provide service in regions that traditional carriers do not find sufficiently profitable to be interesting.
Personally, pinko that I am, I would like to have publicly owned fiber to the curb, with ISPs doing the final connection to the home, but as I've gotten older, I've become increasingly enamored of public ownership of the means of production.


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