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Universal Broadband

What If Columbo Investigated Special Access?

A new coalition of some struggling broadband competitors,, is making claims that the "special access" market is being "choked" by lack of competition and is urging the FCC to reverse course and regulate lower prices for these competitors.

  • "Special access" is basically the business-to-business leasing market of the copper wire connections that link many buildings and cell towers to the Internet backbone at DS1 (1.5 Mbs) and DS3 (44.7 Mbs) speeds.

To solve this controversy and determine who is actually "choking," or holding up whom, I thought it would be instructive and interesting to consider how the beloved TV detective Columbo would apply his common sense questioning to get to the bottom of this whodunit.

Putting the Tech Elites' Whining in Perspective -- Swanson's new U.S. Bandwidth Boom Report

Kudos to Bret Swanson's excellent new research: "Bandwidth Boom: Measuring U.S. Communications Capacity from 2000-2008."

  • For the first time, it measures and puts into perspective the incredibly explosive growth in American bandwidth capacity since the U.S. began strongly promoting facilities-based broadband competition and Internet infrastructure investment.
    • This research is new and interesting because it focuses on measuring supply-side bandwidth capacity, i.e. the fruit of tens of billions of dollars in infrastructure investment, rather than just the traditional demand-side measure of data traffic or usage.   

This research also helps refute the constant whining and pessimism by the tech elites' that the U.S. is in the "digital dark ages," is falling behind the world in broadband, and in need of massive U.S. Government intervention in the Internet infrastructure market in order to make any progress.  

  • The one page report summary is here.
  • The full report is here.

In summary, Bret Swanson's Entropy Economics report found:

"Over the eight-year period:

Pew Report spotlights robust U.S. broadband adoption

Kudos to Verizon's Link Hoewing for an excellent post highlighting the recently released Pew Research Report, which shows the U.S. continues to make steady, broad, and impressive progress in broadband adoption.

This Pew research is another independent evidence point that undermines the manufactured dogma that the U.S. is failing in broadband -- dogma artificially designed to provide a cover story for abandoning successful bipartisan facilities-based competition policies in favor of a "retro" common carrier broadband/Internet regulation regime.






OECD ranks US #1 in schools' broadband access

In another example of how many have overstated that the U.S. is falling behind the world in broadband, the OECD ranks the U.S. #1 in broadband Internet access to schools, with 97% of all American primary and secondary schools having broadband Internet access per the latest OECD data.

This data suggests that lack of broadband access may not a major reason why American students test lower than students in many OECD countries.

For more data and studies on why the U.S. is not falling behind the world on broadband click here.




The National Broadband Plan "Fork-in-the-Road"

A scan of the major comments just delivered to the FCC on the National Broadband Plan (which is due to Congress February 2010), spotlighted the big broadband policy "fork-in-the-road" decision that the FCC now has before it.

Comments on FCC's National Broadband Plan NOI

I filed comments today on the FCC's Notice of Inquiry on the FCC's National Broadband Plan, which is required to be delivered to Congress by February 2010.

  • I made three main points about the National Broadband Plan; it should:
    • Build upon America's strong foundation of success in developing facilities-based broadband competition in the vast majority of the U.S.;
    • Factor in the latest data which indicates the U.S. is not falling behind in broadband or economic competitiveness; and
    • Elevate cybersecurity as a national priority per the President's recent cybersecurity review.

My two-page comments, with links to several of my research pieces, can be found here.

The press release about my comments can be found here.


EC declares "no need for State intervention" in broadband duopoly because there's no market failure

In a significant blow to U.S. advocates of Government-mandated open access networks -- over facilities-based broadband network competition -- the European Commission (EC) just declared "no need for State intervention" in geographic zones where there are at least two facilities-based broadband network competitors, because that means "there is no market failure."

Latest Data: US No Longer Falling Behind on Broadband

The latest data from the OECD and other sources indicate that the U.S. is no longer falling behind the rest of the world in broadband.

  • These latest data are relevant to assumptions underlying the FCC's National Broadband Strategy due to Congress next February and also to broadband policymakers' interest in more data-driven policymaking. 
  • In particular, the OECD broadband rankings have been prominently cited by some as important evidence to justify a reversal of current facilities-based broadband competition policy, in favor of a more government-centered broadband policy.

The latest OECD broadband data were released yesterday and indicate in several statistics and rankings that the dynamic/trend of the U.S. falling behind other countries in broadband has changed, that at a minimum the trend has stabilized and most likely that the dynamic/trend has begun to reverse.


First, on a macro level, the most cited OECD statistic, broadband penetration, has stabilized -- the U.S. in 2008 remained 15th in the OECD broadband penetration rankings the same as in 2007.

More Questions for Free Press' Proposed "New Direction For US Broadband Policy"

After attending FreePress' "Changing Media Summit" yesterday in D.C., I have some more questions for FreePress, in addition to the ones I asked earlier upon the release of their new report.

  • How can Government deploy broadband better, faster and cheaper to most Americans than the current trajectory of private sector facilities-based competition, investment and deployment?
  • How would reversing current broadband policy accelerate broadband progress in the short-term to aid the economic recovery?
  • How would FreePress' implement their recommendations in practice?
  • What effect would implementing FreePress' recommendations have on current broadband investment and deployment?    




Why the Australian “Fiber Mae” Broadband Model Doesn’t Work for the U.S.

As the FCC lays the groundwork for its submission of a National Broadband Strategy to Congress next February, some suggest the U.S. follow the lead of Australia’s new broadband policy model. While it may have superficial and nostalgic appeal to some, upon close scrutiny and analysis it is not an applicable, practical or sound broadband policy option for the United States for a variety of reasons. The Australian “Fiber Mae” broadband policy model is:

  • Not applicable to the U.S. because the ownership and competitive baselines in Australia and the U.S. are not analogous;
  • Not practical for the U.S. because it is a hugely expensive proposal in an exceedingly tight budget/financial environment that would generate very little incremental additional benefit over the current competitive trajectory; and 
  • Not sound policy for the U.S. because it pursues the wrong policy emphasis and structure, which could have the perverse result of the U.S. falling behind in broadband leadership -- the exact opposite of the intended result.