I'm a friend and fan of Susan Crawford - some of the more sensible thinking on bandwidth policy (even if getting from here to there is messy). Sadly I have almost no hope that we'll move in a good direction,
A recent piece of her's appeared in Wired. (she references a paper by Diffraction Analysis - worth the read .. I know those guys and they do good work)
But the most important step New Zealand took was reducing the risk of up-front investment in fiber networks by financing the building of basic networks itself. The final connections to homes are built by private partners, who then buy back the basic network those homes connect to. As the government’s investment is returned, it can then invest released funds in additional infrastructure – all while stimulating private investment. The New Zealand government has also set wholesale pricing for fiber so it’s attractive for people to move from copper to fiber connectivity, and lots of retail fiber providers are showing up. The result: Very fast adoption of competitive fiber-to-the-home.
Similarly, if we wanted ultra-high-speed connectivity in the U.S., we could:
- Provide loan guarantees for building basic competitive fiber infrastructure;
- Preempt state laws that make it difficult (or impossible) for municipalities to commission their own fiber networks;
- Require wholesale providers to build open, non-discriminatory networks as a condition of getting access to rights-of-way; and
- Require separation between content and transport providers to avoid the risk of harvesting.
Most fundamentally, America should be planning for this communications utility in the same way we plan for water and electricity – ensuring that conduit is everywhere. With a functioning wholesale marketplace, competitive retail providers could keep us from being stuck with operators that can harvest additional revenues solely because of their physical market power over basic pipes and wires (think Comcast making 95% margins on its broadband product).