Broadband Policy

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Richard Whitt:

"Here is a suggestion on what I call "three dimensions of broadband as an optimal Internet platform." Folks have traditionally looked at one or two of these. I think it actually makes more sense to talk about all three of them together.

1. First of course, you need to have the infrastructure itself, and that's the IP transmission and broadband component on the bottom, there. That is kind of obvious; that's where the national broadband policy--this will be put in place by the FCC--that is the broadband stimulus plan; you want more and bigger pipes to more people.

2. There is also this idea of sufficiency of net carriage. You could have a broadband platform that is uniquely tuned for the Internet but if 90% to 95% of the capacity goes to traditional video, cable video, proprietary content, that kind of thing that is actually the case today with some cable systems; that's not optimal for the Internet or for connectivity, if that's something that is really driving our policy interests.

3. The third part of it is what I call "integrity of net access," which is what others would call the "open Internet" or "network neutrality." I think you need to have all three of these dimensions working in some way together, in order to have the right kind of mix for Internet access.

I'm not saying you need to regulate to get there, I'm saying these are the things that I think policymakers should be thinking about as they look at the various options.

Real quickly, one way of translating some of these economic technology considerations into some more concrete policy goals and objectives, one suggests a policy goal, borrowing from Susan Crawford, she talks about this idea of "cognitive diversity." My thought here is to have more good ideas. That's the thing that we actually want to come out of all of this work with the broadband networks, with the Internet. We want to generate more good ideas and that is something that should be--the end user is ultimately the one who decides what those ideas are. They fuel innovation and economic growth. They also are just things we talk about. It doesn't necessarily have to be any kind of economic benefit to them whatsoever. The market kind of provides the fodder for these ideas. The mechanism I suggest is the policy objectives that helps us get there is to look at broadband as an optimal Internet platform, with those three dimensions that I suggested." (


Article: Broadband policy: Beyond privatization, competition and independent regulation. by Larry Press. First Monday, Volume 14, Number 4 - 6 April 2009



"During the last 25 years, telecommunication has moved away from government–owned or regulated monopolies toward privatization with competition and oversight by independent regulatory agencies — PCR policies. We present data indicating that PCR has had little impact on the Internet during the last ten years in developed or developing nations, and discuss the reasons for this. We then describe several ways government can go beyond PCR, while balancing needs for next generation technology, decentralized infrastructure ownership, and immediate economic stimulus. We conclude that there is a need for alternatives to the expedient action of subsidizing the current Internet service providers with their demonstrated anti–competitive bent. The decisions we make today will shape telecommunication infrastructure and the industry for decades." (


Policy conclusions from Larry Press:

  • "The current strategy of privatization with hope for competition under independent regulation has failed in many developed and developing nations. In the U.S., regulators have been unable to create competition and our infrastructure has suffered.
  • The large broadband incumbents have benefited from public subsidy, have failed to live up to commitments, and have used their power to defeat attempts to create competition.
  • The U.S. has little fiber in the access network today, but will have fiber to all urban and many rural homes and buildings in the long run. The question is not whether we are going to deploy new infrastructure; the question is “who will own it?”
  • We need immediate economic stimulus, but that can come from tax cuts and investment in many sectors as well as broadband.
  • We should take the time to evaluate decentralized alternatives to near–total ownership by the incumbents. Local governments, cooperatives, small ISPs, and home and building owners might own parts of our next generation infrastructure.
  • This evaluation can be fast and cheap. The work of the National Science Foundation in designing and creating NSFNet and connecting universities, colleges and foreign networks provides an excellent example of a small government staff calling on experts from academia and industry to design a network and a strategy for deploying it, followed by procurement via competitive bid.
  • We will be living with the fiber and high–speed wireless infrastructure we build today for many decades. We will also be living with its owners."