TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Why Our Broadband Policy's Still a Mess

Why Our Broadband Policy's Still a Mess

Jack Decker (jack-yahoogroups@withheld)
Mon, 28 Feb 2005 11:47:46 -0500

By Jim Hu
Staff Writer, CNET

Broadband is booming, DSL prices are dropping and cable modem speeds
are increasing without additional charge.

But to Michael Copps, one of two Democrats on the five-member Federal
Communications Commission, that's not enough. As a policy-maker, Copps
is outraged that the United States isn't near the top of countries
with broadband penetration. While admitting the difficulty in
comparing the United States with Japan, Korea or Norway, Copps also
voices the growing restlessness of government officials who fret about
the private sector's ability to ensure that all Americans get access
to broadband.

Big changes are reshaping the telecom industry. Giant mergers--SBC
Communications acquiring AT&T, Verizon Communications swallowing
MCI--raise huge questions about how consumers will be affected. More
local-government efforts to create their own broadband networks are
facing fierce resistance from the Baby Bells and cable companies such
as Comcast.

Calling broadband "the most central infrastructure challenge facing
the country right now," Copps is wrestling with how to turn the United
States into the most connected country in the world. Can private
industries do it themselves, or will it take a regulatory prod to get
there? Copps recently spoke with CNET about these issues, as
well as the recent complaints of Internet phone service Vonage that
it's not getting a fair shake from local phone companies.

I think we do a grave injustice in trying to hobble municipalities.
That's an entrepreneurial approach, that's an innovative approach. Why
don't we encourage that instead of having bills introduced--"Oh, you
can't do this because it's interfering with somebody's idea of the
functioning of the marketplace." And then the marketplace is not
functioning in those places.

The Bells say that government should not be competing with the private
sector. They are not out there trying to put broadband in the
municipality. Where is the competition?

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