Video Reblogged from BeeshaSIM, comments mine. Who is this citizen, I wonder? His droll presentation has a thespian flair (note the ascot, the elocution, the faux-European affectation) an almost Monty-Python-eque quality that’s quietly subversive. Ashland’s Shakespeare Festival is famous, perhaps this gentleman is a local stage actor. If not, he surely could be. Beneath the comic delivery is a deeply sarcastic, mocking message that is as cold as ice. More City Council meetings should have interludes like this.
BY BERIN SZOKA, MATTHEW STARR, AND JON HENKE
Photo: Seattle Municipal Archives / Flickr
Despite public, political, and business interest in greater broadband deployment, not every American has high-speed internet access yet (let alone a choice of provider for really fast, high-capacity service). So who’s really to blame for strangling broadband competition?
While popular arguments focus on supposed “monopolists“ such as big cable companies, it’s government that’s really to blame. Companies can make life harder for their competitors, but stranglingthe competition takes government.
Broadband policy discussions usually revolve around the U.S. government’s Federal Communications Commission (FCC), yet it’s really our local governments and public utilities that impose the most significant barriers to entry.
Game of Kickbacks
Deploying broadband infrastructure isn’t as simple as merely laying wires underground: that’s the easy part. The hard part — and the reason it often doesn’t happen — is the pre-deployment barriers, which local governments and public utilities make unnecessarily expensive and difficult.
Before building out new networks, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) must negotiate with local governments for access to publicly owned “rights of way” so they can place their wires above and below both public and private property. ISPs also need “pole attachment” contracts with public utilities so they can rent space on utility poles for above-ground wires, or in ducts and conduits for wires laid underground.
The problem? Local governments and their public utilities charge ISPs far more than these things actually cost. For example, rights of way and pole attachments fees can double the cost of network construction.
So the real bottleneck isn’t incumbent providers of broadband, but incumbent providers of rights-of-way. These incumbents — the real monopolists — also have the final say on whether an ISP can build a network. They determine what hoops an ISP must jump through to get approval.
This reduces the number of potential competitors who can profitably deploy service — such as AT&T’s U-Verse, Google Fiber, and Verizon FiOS. The lack of competition makes it easier for local governments and utilities to charge more for rights of way and pole attachments.
It’s a vicious circle. And it’s essentially a system of forced kickbacks. Other kickbacks arguably include municipal requirements for ISPs such as building out service where it isn’t demanded, donatingequipment, and delivering free broadband to government buildings.
So What About Google Fiber?
But the story changes when ISPs have enough leverage.
In Kansas City and Austin, local governments wanted Google Fiber more than they wanted kickbacks. So they expedited the permitting process, gave Google rights-of-way access for little to no cost, andallowed Google to build-out selectively — i.e., in neighborhoods where consumers actually expressed demand.