The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recently released its National Broadband Plan. In all of its 376 page glory, the plan has been lauded for recognizing that broadband is critical infrastructure for the 21st Century. It points out that “broadband is a foundation for economic growth, job creation, global competitiveness and a better way of life.”
While the plan is applauded for getting the high-level strategy right. Some believe the FCC merely kicked the can down the road when it comes to creating conditions that will ensure robust competition. For most U.S. households “competition” in broadband amounts to the choice of one phone company and one cable company. Many also argue that DSL offered by phone companies in many markets can’t compete with cable when it comes to speed. It is also argued that the market for business broadband offers even less choice among competitors resulting in higher prices and poorer service.
Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society developed a study for the FCC showing that a significant reason that other countries were able to expand access and lower rates over the last decade was that they have a commitment to open-access policies that require companies that build networks, i.e. telecoms and cable companies to sell access to competitors who will then invest in and compete on, the network. The study concluded that if every high-speed internet provider has to build its own network infrastructure, the price of entry is too high and competition will falter and over time the goal of attaining faster speeds at lower costs slips further and further away.
Fancy economic theories are well….fancy and theoretical so, I’d be very interested to hear from you…the practitioners. What kind of internet service do you use for your business? Cable, DSL, T-1, business broadband, etc.? What is your experience? Are you satisfied with the speed and price available to you? What is on your broadband wish list?
If you aren’t sure about your broadband speed, the FCC has a new tool that allows you to test it and report back to them. You can also report broadband “dead zones”. Check it out here: http://www.broadband.gov/qualitytest/about/