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Election impact on Communications and the Democrats universal broadband industrial policy

FCC Democratic Commissioner Copps editorial in the Washington Post, America's Internet Disconnect" is a very good guide to how the debate over communications policy and net neutrality will shift with Democratic asendancy in Congress.  

I have the utmost respect for Commissioner Copps personally even though I generally disagree with his conclusions when we look at the same set of facts or analysis. It probably results from his greater trust in government than markets and my greate trust in markets than government.

Why this editorial is so instructive is that Commissioner Copps captures the essence of what Democrats see wrong with the current broadband marketplace what they might do differently if given the chance.

To summarize, Mr. Copps believes: "the fact that broadband is too slow, too expensive and too poorly subscribed is a significant drag on the economy."

  • Mr. Copps employs a common Washington trick to make his point -- selective analysis and facts.
    • What Mr. Copps did not say in his editorial is that America has more total broadband users than any other country and
    • that with 70% of the America (about 200 million americans) with Internet access, the U.S is one of the elite few nations with that record of achievement.

Mr. Copps also asks "How have we fallen behind? Through lack of competition."

  • Once again, Mr. Copps is being selective and omitting very relevant facts.
    • As recently as 2000, America effectively had a monopoly in Internet access but the government's policy to end monopoly and promote intermodal competition is working remarkably fast and faster than the rest of the world! 
    • The broadband duopoly Mr Copps derides is a huge improvement over no broadband and no choice of before. and we have much more competition coming from Wireless broadband, satellite, and BPL among others.
    • Is broadband competion perfect? Of course not. But on virtually every measure broadband competition is increasing or improving -- the preponderance of the facts prove this. (See this link for more info) and  see this link to learn why competition is increasing and will continue to increase going forward.
    • The facts that Mr. Copps cites are misleading -- when taken in isolation.

Good well-intentioned people can also totally agree on the goals and still completely disagree on the means to get there.

  • Mr. Copps is trying to set up a sequence of assertions (that he hopes won't be challenged) so people will reach his same conclusion -- that America needs "a broadband strategy for America" i.e. an industrial policy that uses government intervention to speed deployment, lower prices and increase speeds.
  • Another thing Mr. Copps is leaving out is the "magic wand" needed for government to speed deployment, lower prices and increase speeds.
    • If the "magic wand" he is intimating is FCC micromanagment of network elements' prices terms and conditions a la Reed Hudnt, or tax policy a la Senator Rockefeller, its not a broadband "magic wand" but a broadband wrecking ball!
    • How soon Democrats can forget that we are still a market driven economy where people and companies have to have the opportunity to compete, earn a profit and a return on investment.
  • Lastly, don't fall for the assertion that foreign broadband is so much cheaper than here.
    • Its classic half-ledger accounting.
    • It hides the higher taxes and other costs that subsidize that lower price.