Sunday, August 14, 2005

What Lafayette Understands: Broadband Is Too Important to Be Left to Cable-Phone Duopoly

Washington Post technology columnist Rob Pegoraro hits on a realization that 62 percent of voters in Lafayette last month demonstrated that they get, too. That is this: broadband is too important to be left to the cable-phone duopoly.

In his column, Pegoraro does a good job of explaining the history of network sharing — although, I think he overstates the historic willingness of telephone companies to share access to their networks with competitors.

The fact that he lives in Verizon's base of operations may have something to do with it. He notes that, despite the recent FCC ruling which gives phone companies the right (like cable companies) to keep competitors off their networks, Verizon is actively engaged in negotiations with Earthlink and Speakeasy to enable them to access the RBOC's new fiber to the home networks.

Don't expect such largesse from BellSouth. As businesses in Lafayette will tell you, BellSouth (more often than not) could always find some 'technical' excuse for its inability to enable competitive DSL service providers to access the BS network in Lafayette. Based on the performance of BellSouth's operation of its own network since successfully driving competitors off it, it appears quite reasonable to assume that BellSouth's network problems were not the result of a conspiracy to deprive competitors of network access (along with customers and revenue), but a fundamental lack of suitable infrastructure and technical expertise to consistently deliver services.

The thing to remember about the old network sharing rules is that it was the competitive local exchange carriers (CLECs) that drove innovation on those networks. The RBOCs have never been innovators. Neither have cable companies. The unintended (?) consequence of the FCC's decisions to kill network sharing will be a decline in network innovation at precisely the time when innovation is most needed.

Like I said, on July 16, Lafayette demonstrated that we get Pegoraro's argument.

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