Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Problem - Introduction

Many communities throughout Colorado recognize a need to improve telecommunications capabilities, capacity, reliability, and choice.  Much like the rail systems of the late 1800’s, today’s advanced communications infrastructures represent a means by which communities may participate in, or find themselves left out of, the global economy.  Many communities are discovering that critical telecommunications needs in their business and residential markets are going unmet.  Incumbent network owners consume limited public easement space with monopoly controlled networks.  Quarterly reporting requirements encourage these private incumbent network owners to maximize the appearance of short-term profits by delaying infrastructure upgrades and maintaining pricing models based on bandwidth scarcity. 
The financial market forces driving private incumbent network capital investment has dampened broadband availability across the nation and in, in particular, in rural areas.  Nationally, the Information and Technology Innovation Foundation has ranked the United States fifteenth out of the thirty advanced nations studied in a comparison of the quality of broadband connections based on the percentage of households with access, the speed of the connections, and costs[1].  Based on speed alone, the US ranks even lower – at 25th according to a survey by Speed Matters[2].  “Figure 1 – Global Broadband Quality and Penetration Leaders”[3] shows that while the US lags behind other developed countries in broadband measures of both quality and penetration.  In “The Global Competitiveness Report 2011-2012,” the World Economic Forum ranked the US 18th in Internet users/100 population, 18th in broadband Internet subscriptions/100 population and 26th in Internet bandwidth measured as kb/s/capita (p 363)[4].
Figure 1 – Global Broadband Quality and Penetration Leaders

In rural areas of the country, in rural Colorado, the quality of broadband connections and available speeds is significantly worse than in urban areas.  Recent ad hoc studies conducted by the Colorado Broadband Data and Development Program have demonstrated that bandwidth to community anchor institutions in the Denver metropolitan area is significantly higher than in rural southwestern Colorado, as depicted in “Figure 2 – Colorado CAI Bandwidth Comparisons”.
Figure 2 – Colorado CAI Bandwidth Comparisons
The state study also showed significant per Mbps cost differences between the Denver metropolitan area and southwest Colorado.  Reported costs for T1 like services in the Denver metropolitan area average $167 per month per Mbps.  In southwest Colorado, reported costs for these same services average $438 per month per Mbps.  For larger scale purchases, monthly cost per Mbps in the Denver metropolitan area can be as low as $1.25.  The lowest reported bulk purchase price in southwest Colorado was $12 per month per Mbps.

In sum, bandwidth is less available and more costly in southwest Colorado than in Denver and more costly and less available in the US than in many other advanced countries. 

So, does it matter?  It matters a lot because speed and cost determine the opportunities for using the Internet to create jobs and maximize innovations in telemedicine, education, energy conservation, and other areas.  The National Broadband Plan states:
Not having access to broadband applications limits an individual’s ability to participate in 21st century American life.  Health care, education and other important aspects of American life are online.  What’s more, government services and democratic participation are shifting to digital platforms. [5]
Rural and urban local governments across the county and throughout Colorado have recognized the value of broadband and have determined a policy of assisting with broadband deployment may be appropriate.  Some of the policy objectives these local governments hope to accomplish by implementing broadband include:

·         Encouraging economic development through the availability of 21st century telecommunications services,
·         Improving available telecommunications services through innovation and pricing driven by private competition,
·         Improving governmental efficiencies through enhanced online services and other network capabilities,
·         Improving quality of live by creating a richer communication and entertainment environment, enhancing home business opportunities, and improving telecommuting opportunities, and
·         Closing the digital divide making service reasonably available to all citizens.

Unfortunately, many Colorado communities are faced with barriers that seem insurmountable when looking to resolve common telecommunications issues.  Large and small communities throughout the state are unclear of the limitations placed on them by Colorado’s preemptive telecommunications laws[6], they lack clear success stories with successful business plans to model themselves after, and they need to find the capital to cover what can appear to a small community to be an overwhelming implementation cost.
These posts should not only define the broadband problem Colorado's rural communities face but should also pose solutions.

[1] Atkinson, Robert D., Daniel K. Correa and Julie A. Hedlund (May 2008).  “Explaining International Broadband Leadership.”  The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation.  Retrieved 12 September 2011 from
[2] Speed Matters (November 2010). “2010 – A Report on Internet Speeds in All 50 States.” Communications Workers of America; Washington DC. Retrieved 24 January 2012 from
[3] “Figure 2 – Global Broadband Quality and Penetration Leaders” and the data supporting it come from the Said Business School’s (University of Oxford) “Third Annual Broadband Study Shows Global Broadband Quality Improves by 24% in One Year” published in 2010.
[4] Said Business School, University of Oxford (1 October 2009). “Global Broadband Quality Study Shows Progress, Highlights Broadband Quality Gap: Broadband Quality Improves around the World Despite Economic Downturn.” University of Oxford; London. Retrieved 24 Feb 2012 from
[5] The National Broadband Plan can be found at

1 comment:

  1. Well said, Paul! I agree that the preemption has some majority of rural public officials confused and intimidated. I hope that the legislature can defuse that "fear factor" unequivocally or our rural economies will essentially be Third World economies dependent on agriculture, extraction and tourism.

    Preemption is a form of economic warfare where urban "haves" maintain their status over the rural "have nots". If the state legislature does not act, I hope congress can supersede state preemption laws.