New energy for broadband deployment?

A lot of people are talking about President-Elect Obama’s plan to employ people to rebuild some of the U.S. infrastructure, and many have wondered whether this might include rebuilding the telecommunications infrastructure as well as roads and bridges.  This raises a fundamental point about the U.S. telecommunications structure:  its private ownership has sharply limited the ability of the citizens to get the sorts of services they desire, and also limits the ability of governments to require that networks be operated to achieve certain goals.  When it comes to broadband, citizens want ubiquitous, high speed access at affordable prices, but individual companies control end users’ access to services, and true competition for residential broadband access is generally limited.  Yochai Benkler’s recent comments Two (Radical?) Thoughts on Infrastructure on retooling the U.S. infrastructure reminds us that many countries have a much more enlightened policy regarding open access to use these telecommunications-equivalents of roads and rail tracks.  In many countries, no single company controls the routes of access; rather, providers offer specific services on the basic backbone networks that are shared by many services.  That way, one high capacity network supports numerous choices, and the citizenry don’t need to have multiple networks creating havoc in terms of trenching or stringing fiber. 

About sharon

University of Texas professor in the Radio-TV-Film Department. Specialist in broadband deployment issues, communication policy, technology issues, technology and culture
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