Media Briefing on Broadband & Mobility

February 8, 2009

Is Our Vision Too Narrow?

Filed under: Industry commentary — Craig Settles @ 6:57 pm

The national broadband discussion, both in Congress and elsewhere, has to stop making it seem as if our only options for solution providers are Verizon and incumbent cable companies. As in, “open access will limit incumbents’ involvement,” or “requiring 50 Mbps will prevent the cable companies from participating.” Yeah, that’s true, but it’s only one side of the story. Let’s not present it as if they’re the only game in town. They’re not!

There are regional and local telcos such as MTCO in Metamora, IL that can step up to the plate (read about them in my report). Have we forgotten that it is the small and the swift that bring technology up to the next level? In the closing days of this stimulus battle, if Congress stands firm for tougher requirements, local or new players will step into the breach.

Some politicians live and die in the name of tax credits, but when you talk to some of the smaller players, doesn’t it seem as if easier access to bank credit will do much more for them to get network projects going than tax credits? This is the feedback I’m hearing. Besides these regional players, there are local government-managed options.

Though people don’t want to bring up the ghosts of municipal wireless projects failed, if you look at the broadband solutions developed in rural places such as Greene County and Bristol, VA, you see many viable solutions run by municipalities or public utilities. They’re providing services and operating in the black.

Let stimulus money flow to local governments, and pass national legislation that removes the handcuffs of telco-influenced restrictions on their ability to provide their own solutions. Pulaski, TN officials talk about how their public utility cannot provide the community that’s down the road with service that could save this town millions of dollars, thanks to telco-induced anti-competition legislation. At the same time, the telcos whine about how difficult it is to get fiber into remote areas because of the vast expanse of our national geography while side-lining those with proven ability to do just that.

If Congress looks at what’s working, and listens to the people in the trenches making it happen, we would hope they craft a final version of the broadband stimulus bill that opens the universe of options for local communities in a real and meaningful way. Otherwise, it’s just more dollars for the same old failures. 

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