New FCC Internet Regulations Model for Achieving Global Internet Access?
President Obama announced his administration’s strategy for achieving national broadband internet access coverage. No reasonable person can argue against the importance of broadband internet for driving economic growth, development, innovation, education, and entertainment.
We applaud the administration for bringing more attention, and debate to the critical issues associated with broadband. However, I believe it is imperative to contribute two additional unifying principles.
First, broadband is not simply a domestic national issue, it is fundamentally a global issue. I am not suggesting U.S. citizens and taxpayers should be unfairly burdened with any additional global challenges and responsibilities.
However, I passionately believe in the power of leadership by example. Let’s show the world that this vision is achievable. Political rhetoric is not sufficient. Ultimately the final criteria for success must be predicated on the power of our actions, and of course, the real impact that we are able to achieve! Not only will this country and the world judge our success, but more importantly, so will history.
The second fundamental principle is the necessity for financial and economic sustainability and scalability of broadband business models. I have argued for years, that broadband internet is a fundamental human right. It is important that the notions and principles of universal “access” are not confused with slogans that are not financially sustainable. We should be cautions of political and governmental slogans the proclaim “free,” or “subsidized,” internet.
Universal access can best be achieved by ensuring a vigorous, openly competitive marketplace. This will facilitate the creation of more and better innovation, new services, open source protocols and lower prices. It is critical that consumers are empowered, and that they have access to the open source tools, so that consumers are better able to influence their own broadband future.
What should be driving our broadband future is a market that is based on open competition, underpinned by appropriate business oriented competition law and regulation. Policies that seek to turn the internet into a regulated utility, operated by monopolists and quasi-monopolists under the false banner of “free,” or “subsidized” will not lead to financial sustainability, but to complex redistribution, and poorly allocated public spending.
The government is less efficient at picking winners and losers both in terms of business models, and also in terms of superior future technical solutions. We must allow for a free market to create a myriad of technologies, the best of which will help to solve the challenge of achieving ‘broadband access for all’. Policymakers need to ensure that smaller internet service providers can have open, competitive, wholesale access to the fiber optic networks of the existing monopoly and quasi monopoly providers.
Sustainability and scalability, with access to open networks, open source tools and dynamic markets will allow broadband investments to be paid back, so that the funds can be “paid forward” to other communities, allowing broadband to go viral, as opposed to heavily regulated and complex subsidization schemes, that tend to slow and suppress internet growth. The democratization of broadband requires open markets, the best technologies and global thinking in a world where it is becoming increasingly clear that the wellbeing of any part is symbiotically related to the wellbeing of the whole.
In the year 2020, I argue that everybody on the planet who desires to be connected to the Internet, will have the capability to have Internet access. I call this single moment in history, when every human being is connected to the internet, the “Communications Singularity.”
If we get this debate right, we can collectively make a tremendous impact. The benefits will be much greater than any single nation state may deliver by themselves, but a few nations united, can ultimately have an impact that can benefit the majority of humanity.
If the correct decisions are made, about broadband and internet access in 2015, we can positively impact the lives of a billion people in less than 10 years time. That is a goal worth fighting for!
Finally, one of the initiatives, of this presidential administration, which holds great potential is the so called, “dig once,” initiative. This initiative calls for allowing fiber optic internet providers to have access to underground facilities whenever the roads are opened up by those replacing water pipes, cable TV, electric companies and the like. Nearly 90% of all cost related to installing fiber optic cabling, is related to the digging cost. If we can essentially eliminate digging cost we can provide consumers with higher bandwidth, lower cost internet access.
Not only do we have to get the policy of “dig once,” to work here in the U.S., we need to provide the model legislation that will enable countries around the world to be empowered and take the leadership role in providing low cost internet to their citizens.