National Fiber Plan Needed?

Forbes has a compelling article entitled; 10 Reasons To Be More Optimistic About Broadband Than Susan Crawford Is. Susan Crawford’s new book, Captive Audience: The Telecom Industry and Monopoly Power in the New Gilded Age advocates a national fiber network. Last week she spoke at the New America Foundation saying access to broadband is a fundamental need, and that it should be approached nationwide like FDR’s rural electrification efforts.

Susan Crawford believes a national program to deliver, symmetrical 100+ mbps service is needed. She opposed the Comcast-NBCU merger, believing that Comcast exerted monopoly control and that the duopoly wireless carriers, AT&T and Verizon, have agreed not to compete with Comcast.

The article, written by Berin Szoka, President of TechFreedom and Geoffrey Manne, a Lecturer in Law at Lewis & Clark Law School and Executive Director of the International Center for Law & Economics have both received support from broadband providers as well as content providers. But they provide an interesting counter-point to Crawford’s government program.

The nationwide fiber network Crawford calls for sounds like long-standing dreams of high-speed rail. But the reality would probably look a lot more like Amtrak: slow, grossly over-budget, heavily subsidized, and unable to compete with more nimble competitors.

One alternative approach might be like the partnership between The city of Seattle and Gigabit Squared (GB2), along with the University of Washington. They begin raising the capital to build out a demonstration fiber network that will deliver gigabit service to homes and businesses (FAQ).

The network, called Gigabit Seattle includes three pieces: Fiber directly to homes and business in twelve demonstration neighborhoods, along with dedicated gigabit broadband wireless connections to multifamily housing and offices across Seattle, and next generation wireless cloud services in its 12 neighborhoods.

In July, Seattle abandoned nearly a decade of planning to develop a citywide, municipal broadband service. That network, connecting city facilities, cost over $50 million to install.

When Seattle decided to lease capacity on its network, Gigabit was one of ten companies that expressed interest, explains Brier Dudley of the Seattle Times.

Chicago was the first recipient of the Gigabit Neighborhood Gateway Program where the University of Chicago, communities like Woodlawn, state, city and county government, as well as hospitals and schools combined with the private equity to fund the Gigabit Squared project. Chicago is trying to encourage private investment in completing a high-speed fiber ring that would link existing and emerging tech centers and provide free WiFi in parks.

Significantly, the FCC opened a proceeding to make available 100 MHz in the 3.5 GHz band for unlicensed use of small cells.

Cellular companies are realizing that small, cheap LTE antennas on nearly every block, using their licensed frequencies, may be the best way to increase capacity. But small cells need fiber.

Private money, not taxpayer money, can build the network. In return for access to rights of way, cities like Chicago and Seattle are able get significant public benefits. Cellular companies don’t have to fight over fiber rights of way. Equal access to the fiber backbone is key to market efficiency.

Everyone wins. It seems like an idea whose time has come.

Related Dailywireless articles include; Susan Crawford: Why Broadband is Slow and Expensive, Seattle’s Gigabit Fiber CityNet, Chicago Announces Free WiFi in Parks, Google Fiber Launches in Kansas City, Small Cells for Cisco, Sprint to use Light Radio for Small Cells, Street light Provides Wi-Fi, Cell Coverage, Hotspot 2.0, Intel: Basestation in the Cloud, Clearwire: On the Hot Zone, Sprint to use LightRadio for Small Cells, LTE iPhone: Game Changer?, London: The Biggest Small Network in the World, FCC: More Backhaul at 6, 11 and 23 GHz

Posted by Sam Churchill on .

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