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This month, the Federal Communications Commission begins drafting a national broadband plan as part of the 2009 stimulus package. This is not the first government attempt at broadband ubiquity, so the FCC can learn from past failures. The commissioners have less than eight months to "ensure that all people of the United States have access to broadband capability," as well as provide additional guidelines for using existing high-speed Internet infrastructure to support more than a dozen socioeconomic and political objectives.
Great, but how often do we really find "respondents who had four or more BSPs serving their neighborhood"? Or is this counting CLECs like Earthlink, Speakeasy, etc.?
Real competition would mean doing away with the government-granted monopolies for the incumbent phone and cable companies, and letting anyone who can legally connect you to the internet (without violating anyone else's rights) do so. Of course, genuine competition of this sort would surely mean the swift end of AT&T, Comcast, and the like, so it's a safe bet they would buy whatever legislation is necessary to make sure this never happens. Effectively, they already have.
There's a case to be made for single-provider broadband: it ensures a minimum level of service to everyone. There's a case to be made for the free market: it provides the greatest innovation and lowest prices. There's no case to be made for the scenario we have now, unless you're an incumbent telco or cabler, charging 21st Century prices for 20th (or in some cases, 19th) Century technology.
We can learn from other nations success at increasing the percentage of users of broadband, average download/upload speeds, and decreasing customer costs in both dollars/Mbps and dollars/GB. Government mandated local loop unbundling has been done in Japan, South Korea, France, and the United Kingdom/Great Britain. This has helped to create lower costs by creating more ISP competitors. South Korea and Japan both have government programs to create 100Mbps symmetrical FTTH connections for a signifigant percentage of their households. Municipal government fiber optic and WiFi buildouts have provided needed broadband capability that the private sector refuses to provide. See the Minneapolis WiFi system, the LaFayette Utility Service fiber buildout, and the Wilson NC Greenlight Fiber project for how government can step in and successfully manage a public utility service, that the private sector cannot do. The private telephone companies had at least 10 years to provide the symmetrical broadband requirements of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. They have signifigantly failed to meet those requirements. Except for Verizon's FIOS, the telephone companies have not invested in the necessary infrastruture to support the 1996 Act's goals.
The city I live in should have 20Mbps symmetrical FTTH connections available from 3 ISPs. This can only be accomplished with government mandates and incentives that set tough requirements for true high speed internet access.