Should Broadband Expansion be Public Policy?

David Byrd : Byrd's Eye View
David Byrd
Chief Marketing Officer for ANPI

Should Broadband Expansion be Public Policy?

Interestingly, the announcement by the FCC of a National Broadband Plan received little to no attention on our major media outlets. Perhaps it's because the amount of money involved is rather low when compared to Social Security, Medicare, and Defense. Perhaps it's because the announcement came in the middle of the Healthcare debate. Regardless, there is little public awareness of the plan. Within our industry and the politicians that curry favor with our industry, the discussion has been more vigorous. It is of interest to network providers like Lucent, Cisco and Alcatel because they should be able to sell more servers. It is of interest to the ILECs and major cable companies because they should be able to expand their customer base and overall network infrastructure. It is of interest to Broadvox and other ITSPs and ISPs as we see the potential to compete better with our VoIP/SIP products against current TDM deployments. Finally, it is of interest to the overall IP ecosystem as we can personally use the higher speeds and proposed lower per megabit pricing.

However, should tax dollars be spent to subsidize the expansion of broadband by private industry? To most Americans the answer clearly depends upon your party affiliation. Sixty-seven percent of Americans self identify themselves as either a member of the Democratic or Republican Party. Within this group, there is a clear answer to the question. "Yes" the government must make access to broadband possible for all Americans. There should be no "digital divided" based upon where you live, your income or your ethnicity. "No" the free markets and free enterprise will address this problem. Unfettered competition will bring forth the expansion required. Government only interferes. It cannot assist.

I'll let you determine which group holds which position.  

Now for another announcement, I am neither a Democrat nor a Republican. Therefore, I find that my opinion is seldom voiced by either political party. I am also dismayed by the use of the following phrases "left and right", "the other side", "both sides" and even "bipartisanship".  I believe that my voice and many others like me are tired of being ignored or referred to as "the middle", "moderate" or "independent". I prefer to view my opinions as another view or third dimension of thought. In fact, I prefer being referenced as the third dimension.

For example, the US finds itself at a disadvantage when it comes to making major changes in its telecom infrastructure. In most countries, there is a legacy carrier and smaller competitors. The legacy carrier can implement national initiatives. We have no such carrier in the US, although AT&T comes close. Therefore, "We the People" or the US government has a role to play in making this happen. However, if public money is spend enabling private enterprise to expand, then shouldn't we benefit from any profits? If not grants with potential profits, then our assistance should be in the form of low interest or deferred payment loans. We should always remember we are a capitalist economic system.

To be competitive globally will require an upgrade to our IP infrastructure. We were slow to take up mobility compared with the rest of the world, but look at us now. If we make the expansion of broadband public policy with the right type of plan, then we will succeed there also.

See you on Monday...



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