March 18, 2005

Eweek on municipal networks

Carol Ellison at EWeek covers the battle over municipal broadband

Ben Gould, whose company, DynamicCity sells fiber to systems to municipalities, explains how the battle is a symptom of failed telecom deregulation. Despite twenty years of attempted deregulation, the telecom industry has kept its monopolistic structure and habits.

Gould believes anti-competitive practices in the United States—and he counts state anti-municipal legislation among them—as the reason why Americans pay comparatively more for Internet access than citizens of other developed nations. He cites a recent report from the International Telecommunications Union that shows the United States in 2004 ranked 13th in broadband penetration, falling from fourth in 2001.
"We believe the reason we're underserved and overcharged is because there hasn't been fair competition," said Gould.
To his mind the original Ma Bell—which was subsidized by the government and given rights of way, capital, guaranteed rates of return and captive rate payers—was never fully decontrolled, and recent mergers that have reduced the number of competing telecoms to six raise the specter that it never will be.
"On a local level you went from the original Ma Bell to multiple Ma Bells," he said. Long-distance rates went down as a result of decontrol but "at the local level it didn't happen. You still had the original Bell footprint."
The Telecom Act of 1996, which opened local carriers' networks to allow other ISPs to run on them, "hasn't delivered the desired result" of fostering lively competition. "The motivation of the municipality is to be able to bring quality of life into a community," said Gould.
Posted by alevin at March 18, 2005 10:18 AM