March 05, 2005
Statesman Op-Ed calls for visionary communications planning
What's missing from the current effort at state telecom reform? A vision and plan for the communications future of the state of Texas, says an Austin-American Statesman Op-Ed by Gary Chapman, director of The 21st Century Project at the LBJ school.
Chapman reviews the results of the last round of telecom deregulation a decade ago. "Instead of opening up the telecommunications networks to competition - the goal of telecom reform in the mid-90s - we have now strengthened monopolies in areas such as telephone and cable. Increasingly, customers are faced with a telecom "duopoly" - if they're lucky enough to have two companies competing for their business.
This time around, says Chapman, we should reform policy with a strategic vision for Texas.
... new technologies are available now or coming soon - such as telephone service and video over the Internet - that make much of our installed infrastructure obsolete. Ideally, we'd like ubiquitous, universal Internet access at high speed and low cost, so that the entire state could migrate to these new technologies as quickly as possible. Total coverage with wireless broadband Internet is another important goal. These are important technologies for economic development, education and economic equity, as well as fostering businesses.
We should develop policies that foster new alternatives, such as smaller entrepreneurial companies in rural areas and low-income urban neighborhoods. We should allow local governments to offer their own services if they can't get broadband Internet from big companies. Studies have shown that municipal networks attract new service providers instead of deterring them.
Texas' telecommunications landscape is critical to the state's future and a matter of public interest. We need policies that get us to where we want to be in another 10 years, not another effort that is thwarted by big companies maneuvering against each other and stalling our state's development.
What do we have instead in HB789?
* The incumbents are seeking to lift price caps, enabling them to reap the profits of duopoly.
* The incumbents are seeking to prevent cities and towns from jumpstarting competition in the rural towns and low-income areas where there is no broadband service or no competition.
* The incumbents are seeking to strangle innovative efforts by cities like Dallas, which plans to blanket the convention area with wifi to make the city more attractive to business travellers.
We're getting telecom policy that benefits incumbents at the risk of turning Texas into a broadband backwater.
Read the whole op-ed at the Statesman and see what we're missing (registration required).Posted by alevin at March 5, 2005 02:28 PM