Anti-municipal broadband laws are like bubonic plague

The bubonic plague (or Black Death) kept popping up in various European cities for hundreds of years. As soon as one city’s population would be decimated, the plague would die out only to reappear after a long hiatus. In the case of anti-municipal broadband bills, as soon as one would get defeated in a state legislature, it would pop up in another state and after a short hiatus, blossom in exactly the same form. Read about the latest outbreak of the Plague (State of Georgia anti-muni broadband bill).

There are four culprits:

(1) Monopoly broadband providers (the incumbent telecom operators and cable companies): What else do you expect them to do? These are the originators of the Plague and will continue spreading the Plague unless extreme measures are taken to quarantine them.

(2) State legislators who believe that the public sector should not spend tax money on broadband infrastructure, but should instead shower such largesse on sports stadiums, sports teams and wealthy sports stars;

(3) Small local broadband operators who do not lobby their state legislatures to do two things: set up a competitive, low cost wholesale fiber broadband network and open it up to small players like themselves at reasonable prices. I have discovered that many of these small operators have swallowed the “free market/government out of everything” mantra without carefully thinking through exactly where government can be of great help and where it can’t; and

(4) The People: Yes, the mysteriously absent “People” who complain about the high price of DSL and cable Internet access but do nothing whatsoever to force their elected representatives to create a truly competitive broadband market. The same People would rather see sports stadiums subsidised by their precious tax monies. The same people veto government spending on fiber broadband infrastructure while paying exorbitant amounts of money to the cable and DSL incumbents.

I have been writing about anti-municipal broadband bills since at least 2004. Nine years later, they keep popping up, like the Black Death, even though I and a coalition of many other people have had a hand in defeating some of the worst ones.

Structural separation is the ONLY solution: an open fiber-based broadband infrastructure that is not owned by any of the incumbents, but owned by the public, maintained at the public expense, and leased wholesale to private companies that deliver wired and wireless broadband service to all. In areas where there are few people and no private company can hope to deliver wireless or wired broadband service without going bankrupt, government should step in to provide incentives to do so and help make the business of broadband viable.