Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Several points:

1.  The FCC deregulated broadband, which, were it regulated, would be a utility as it would be subject to the Common Carriage obligations under the 1934 Communications Act.  This would mean, among other things, that (a) it would be subject to universal service; (b) providers would be subject to carrier of last resort obligations; (c) there would have to be some form of price control (and we have precedent for forward-looking cost-based pricing, which is the most reasonable approach from a public policy perspective); (d) anyone could attach any device they like to any network - wireless or wireline or cable - rather than being forced into buying device, software and services from the same vertically integrated mega-provider; and (e) would likely do a great deal of good for opening up the worst levels of market concentration we've seen in telecommunications in this country since 1912.

2.  Against this backdrop the FCC is attempting piecemeal deregulation of certain segments of the industry while gutting traditional universal service.  This is pushed very hard by AT&T (who is quietly abandoning landline), Verizon (who has sold off most of its rural/expensive landline properties) and Comcast, Cox, BrightHouse (who just sold off some of the most desirable spectrum in the country to AT&T and Verizon in exchange for tacit agreement that the AT&T and Verizon would no longer compete in landline markets) all of whom hate paying into a fund they see going primarily to the traditional incumbent landline carriers, who, like so many others, absolutely refuse to deploy fiber optic in the places where it is most needed despite being given enormous sums of taxpayer money.

3.  Overall, landline carriers are dying as a result of severely unbalanced regulation and subsidy system that let them harvest enormous direct and indirect subsides for years without having to invest and upgrade their network plant.

4.  Some smaller carriers, however, have done a pretty good job of upgrading their plant and running fiber optic.

5.  This leaves most rural communities in a bad spot; there are fewer and fewer funds available to upgrade and the subsidy systems are broken.

What this means is that we need real vision in this state.  Colorado is the nation's 8th largest state and one of the most diverse in terms of geography, climate, and population densities.  The Internet enables location-independent workers, particularly where reasonably priced, robust and redundant carrier-grade fiber optic facilities are available.  It is the very engine of economic growth and a critical input into any economy no different than road, running water, sanitation, electricity and public safety.  Given how strong the market concentration is right now, the worst thing that could happen would be for government funded entities to displace the remaining few communities and community-based providers who have upgraded their networks to fiber optic.

If this state can understand how we got to where we are while embracing a vision of investing in communications as a infrastructure rather than a business, then the government would be in a position of creating opportunities for existing carriers while also creating opportunities for community-centric economic development in ways that would serve as a model for the entire nation.

I look forward to continuing to support the carriers, communities and visionary public servants of this great state who are unafraid of the hard facts and have the courage and creativity to forge ahead with new solutions on new terms using new thinking.

The only limits are our collective creativity and courage.  As a result, I see nothing but upside for Colorado.

With every best wish,

Erik J. Cecil, Esq.
SourceLaw, PC
9769 W. 119th Dr.
Suite 32
Broomfield CO 80021

1 comment:

  1. Erik,

    Thanks for putting this in a nation context. For Colorado, I think SOME of the next steps are:

    1. Work on the legislature to neutralize SB-152 to the point of removing the "fear factor" for public officials so that they need not worry about ending their careers for simply advocating for a carrier neutral location
    2. Leverage the Local Broadband Planning Teams and activists in assisting unserved and underserved communities in solving their problems (ties back to our earlier Internet3 cooperative)
    3. Use the election to raise awareness for broadband in rural CO

    What else team?