…or why broadband planners shouldn’t rely solely on carrier-provided broadband data
NTIA administrator Larry Strickling is wrong: carriers shouldn’t be trusted – certainly not to share broadband data. That’s because you shouldn’t rely on carriers to agree to serve the public interest. Not that they are inherently bad corporate citizens; but because carriers’ interests and the public’s interest are not aligned. And never will be. Consequently, carriers are never going to take
steps that would entail favoring the public’s interest over theirs. It’s just plain logic; economic logic – unencumbered by the hardcore free-market ideology that telecom lobbyists always talk about.
Let’s look at the facts. To put it simply, free markets don’t quite work in the broadband world. Everywhere you look, you find a juxtaposition of local oligopolies: a limited number of firms serving a sub-
regional market. Where are there more than three telcos competing in the same county? We’re certainly not saying that telcos are plotting to rip off consumers – we’re simply noticing that they have no real incentive to be very aggressive commercially.
That’s why we believe one shouldn’t trust carriers too much. But that’s all right: because carriers are working for their shareholders. Whereas public authorities looking to foster broadband deployment and adoption are working on behalf of their constituencies. The truth is that broadband is a public responsibility, not something that should be entrusted solely to the private sector. Within that context elected officials and the government can actually have a say.
Here is a little background story. Back in the early 2000s the French incumbent, France Telecom, spent three years fighting a law meant to enable public bodies (“départements” and “regions”) to start building broadband infrastructure – and in 2004, it lost. Then, when it became clear that public networks would start sprouting out all over the country, France telecom decided to work with small, alternative, local telcos and public-private partnerships planning and running public networks. If you can’t beat them, join them. Today, five years later, 96% of the French population enjoys broadband (and there they mean over 3 Mb) access for less than 30€ ($42 dollars) a month. They can’t be trusted – but in the end carriers cooperate when they’re pushed!
At SNG, we think it is important that public officials understand this context, so that elected decision-makers can decide to allocate the required resources to do their own broadband mapping – without relying on the goodwill of carriers to share their broadband data. Because, as Art Brodsky writes today: “At the end of the day, somebody is going to be in control of the mapping. It will either be the public, and the public interest, as represented by NTIA, or the industry.”
If you think we can help, or would like to learn more about our broadband planning support services, please contact us.
Introducing Strategic Networks Group, Inc.
“You wouldn’t make a major investment in your business without knowing all the facts – investing in broadband is no different.” At SNG, we help our clients build solid, credible, and successful, business cases for necessary e-solutions, ICT and connectivity infrastructure investments within their communities. We have the experience and the tools to show clients where ICT investments can shorten the path to local economic growth. We adapt our methodologies to de-risk investment decisions and accelerate uptake rates for client broadband initiatives. We can help you now make the most of the broadband stimulus package funds – for the good of your constituents.
Specifically, we have developed a unique approach to broadband supply and demand mapping – the only way to gather all the info needed to prepare the right deployment plans – and strong grant requests.
“Broadband mapping should be done in the public interest”
“[It could be that North Carolina might be] the latest state in which the economic and political clout of incumbent service providers is being exercised at cross-purposes to the public interest goals of broadband mapping. This is especially troubling today, since very large amounts of public money will soon be spent to generate data, maps and analysis that are supposed to serve the public interest.
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Speaking at the recent Virginia Summit on Broadband Access, NTIA administrator Larry Strickling expressed confidence that broadband service providers will not only provide the detailed supply data requested by his agency, but also that carriers would waive the confidentially provisions that keep this data from being associated with specific companies.That sounds like a pretty “audacious” hope to me, though I certainly hope Mr. Strickling is correct. But, just in case he isn’t, we at SNG suggest that states be ready to put together as much broadband data as they can without relying solely on carrier cooperation.
States and their broadband mapping contractors should, of course, work closely and in good faith with carriers to negotiate agreements and develop systems so carriers can provide the data elements set forth in the NOFA on terms that adhere to the document’s confidentiality provisions and that carriers find acceptable.
But we don’t think it’s wise for states to rely solely on carrier cooperation in the design and execution of their broadband mapping programs. As the NOFA makes clear (see pg. 45), NTIA is asking for more detailed data than has ever been provided for a broadband mapping project. The extent to which carriers will provide this data remains at best an open question.
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NTIA administrator Larry Strickling (again…) is wrong: carriers shouldn’t be trusted – certainly not to share broadband data. That’s because you shouldn’t rely on carriers to agree to serve the public interest. Not that they are inherently bad corporate citizens; but because carriers’ interests and the public’s interest are not aligned. And never will be. Consequently, carriers are never going to take steps that would entail favoring the public’s interest over theirs. It’s just plain logic; economic logic – unencumbered by the hardcore free-market ideology that telecom lobbyists always talk about.Let’s look at the facts. To put it simply, free markets don’t quite work in the broadband world.
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At SNG, we can provide a full mapping solution that meets NTIA requirements. Or, for States that are undertaking their own mapping project, we can provide enrichment and verification. Our mapping solutions have the two key characteristics: multi-source, independently verified mapping and integration of supply and demand data. Let’s discuss each point below. If you’re in a hurry click here to download the 3-page description of our offer. Also, we’d like to know what you think of this approach: please tell us!
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