Monday, August 03, 2009

More broadband policy developments...but not in the UK


Estonia is the latest country to green light national NGA infrastructure, according to TeleGeography:
"The Estonian government has approved plans to construct a nationwide superfast broadband network, according to local news source Postimees Online. Under the proposals the state expects 90% of the country to have access to the 100Mbps network by 2012, with the remainder of the population to be connected by 2015. Juhan Parts, Estonia’s minister of economic affairs and communications, also revealed that the government would create an autonomous foundation comprising all major telecommunication providers in the country to oversee the network’s development. ‘The state plans to provide significant support for developing the infrastructure; as of now, the state’s contribution that is required is approximately EEK1 billion (USD91.45 million)’, the minister noted. It is expected that the government will fund the deployment of infrastructure in those areas, mostly rural and sparsely populated, that are not considered financially feasible by commercial operators."
In the US, the FCC's national broadband plan notice of inquiry (=consultation) has provoked interesting responses from both the ITIF and EDUCAUSE. This from EDUCAUSE:
"...rather than investing in short-term, transitional technologies, emphasis should be on technologies that can spur innovation and be scalable for decades. Within a 5-10 year timeframe, for the general purpose Internet, we suggest an initial goal of 100Mbps to every home and business; for smaller anchor institutions such as schools, community colleges, libraries and health clinics, an initial goal of 100Mbps to 1 Gbps; and for larger anchor institutions such as colleges, universities, and hospitals, and to facilitate the essential research applications in use today and in the near future, networks and equipment must provide multi-Gigabit speeds.”
“…work more closely with state and regional networks to extend their backbone networks deeper into the community to provide middle mile/backhaul capabilities. Over 30 states have some form of a non-profit research and education backbone network that currently carries the telecommunications traffic of state and local governments, schools, libraries, hospitals and other anchor institutions.”
“…many countries that are more rural than the U.S. (Sweden, Canada, Finland, and Norway) have a higher rate of broadband subscribership than the U.S. because their governments have taken the necessary steps to encourage it. These governments have not looked at their rural geography as an excuse for inaction; rather they have looked at it as a challenge that can be overcome with the right policies…”
Attachment B of EDUCAUSE's response argues that US broadband policy should be lead by education, given the historical development of the Internet and world wide web. It also re-states the need to support concurrent access:
“Students’ experiences with high bandwidth connectivity on their campuses are driving their expectations and the domestic demand for new high-bandwidth applications that will advance America and be exportable to the rest of the advanced world.”
And some measured words in response to the FCC from the ITIF:
“So what should the United States do to improve its broadband performance? There are a number of specific policy recommendations that we propose. But perhaps the most important step we can take as a nation is to move beyond the divisive and unproductive debate over broadband policy that we are now caught up in. The current debate over broadband revolves around arguments about whether we are behind or ahead; whether our relative position is due to policy or other factors; whether unbundling is a magic bullet or an investment killer; and of course, whether net neutrality is the solution to the greatest threat to the Internet since its inception or merely an anachronistic concept. Indeed, the U.S. broadband policy environment is characterized on the one hand by market fundamentalists who see little or no role for government, and indeed see government as the problem; and on the other by digital populists who favor a vastly expanded role for government (including government ownership of networks and strict and comprehensive regulation, including mandatory unbundling of incumbent networks and strict net neutrality regulations) and who see big corporations providing broadband as a problem. It’s time to move beyond free market fundamentalism on the right and digital populism on the left and begin to craft pragmatic, realistic policies that focus on the primary goal: getting as many American households using high-speed broadband networks to engage in all sorts of online activities, including education, health care, work, commerce, and interacting with their government.”
And an interesting take on the"broadband as utility" argument:
“Broadband networks have certain characteristics that distinguish them from utility networks for services such as water and sewage: we expect broadband to get faster and cheaper year after year, but we don’t have similar expectations for our water, sewer, and garbage collection systems. We believe it’s reasonable to ask consumers to moderate their use of utilities in light their societal costs by conserving water and electricity and recycling, but we have no such expectation where broadband is concerned. In fact, we have quite the opposite attitude, considering ever-higher consumption of broadband capacity indicative of virtue: people who consume lots of broadband bandwidth are deemed “innovators,” not profligate wasters. This is as it should be, of course, because innovative new network applications often do consume more bandwidth than old, established ones (but not always, Twitter is a narrowband innovative service.) So if broadband networks are utilities, they’re utilities of an entirely different kind than water and sewer systems, ones in which we don’t ask consumers to conserve and which we expect will constantly increase in capacity and decrease in cost to the user. So the “utility” formulation is not helpful and doesn’t serve to drive the debate in a constructive direction, with a few exceptions.”

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