This commentary was not originally written for Clarksville Online. I want to thank Karl Bode of DSL Reports for giving me permission to republish this article here for you. I felt it was something that you should see. Thank you Karl!
If you wish to read the original version complete with user commentary please feel free!
Municipal Report: Bogus Experts, Bogus Concern
Faking interest in broadband deployment to maximize revenue
Posted 2006-10-31 20:31:09 by Karl
Editorial: Outfits such as the Reason Foundation, Competitive Enterprise Institute and the Heartland Foundation are free-market think tanks that proudly proclaim that eliminating government oversight in the broadband sector will result in broadband utopia. Their editorials and position papers insist they are concerned with “optimizing broadband deployment” in this country. However the real agenda, as always, is maximizing revenue for themselves and their constituents by eliminating all regulation, creating an utterly toothless regulatory authority, and letting the nation’s largest corporations run wild.
With that in mind, the groups have banded together to issue this compact under the Freedom Foundation flag. The piece attacks government oversight and municipal broadband, offering free-marketeers a guide to a better broadband tomorrow.
“As scholars and analysts specializing in broadband policy, we recently convened online to examine the issue,” the group notes. “Empirical research and economic rationale guided our deliberations,” the group insists. The only problem is that the crew of “scholars and analysts” assembled to tackle the nuanced debate over muni-broadband all share the same ideology, and all in one way or another are tied to incumbent telecom providers.
Signees for the free market manifesto include gentlemen such as the Heartland Institute’s Joseph Bast, whose organization rails against what it calls the “junk science” that health officials aim at the tobacco industry. Also signing off on the manifesto is Sonia Arrison, an employee of the telco-funded Pacific Research Institute, whose pro-incumbent editorials appear frequently in papers and websites across the nation without her ties to industry clearly illuminated.
While these financial ties obviously do not invalidate these groups’ positions, the suggestion that these outfits are concerned with broadband “deployment” should be insulting to those interested in honest debate over this nation’s telecom infrastructure. These groups and the compact’s signees are concerned with one thing: maximum possible revenue for their clients, and a toothless regulatory authority.
Their focus is not to increase broadband deployment. That would require offering broadband services to rural portions of America, where their employer’s ROI would be dubious and stock prices would suffer. Whether you can get DSL in the remotest regions of your Ohio suburb is the very last thing on the mind of individuals such as Joseph Bast and Sonia Arrison, or organizations such as the Heartland Institute.
The coalitions suggestions for “maximizing deployment”, include the elimination of all “unnecessary regulations”, telecom taxes or fees (though as discussed many of these are phony and imposed by the providers themselves), as well as ensuring that municipalities are “prohibited from investing in, managing or operating broadband infrastructure and services.”
But wait: wouldn’t banning towns and cities from offering broadband be regulation? And wouldn’t it be “un-necessary regulation” considering companies like AT&T have discovered they can simply compete in the muni-wireless sector? Strange how such rabid fans of a free-market aren’t interested in allowing market darwinism to play out.
The reality is that these groups only truly oppose regulation when it runs contrary to the interests of their corporate financiers and their own portfolios. Many of these groups would find regulations preventing the dumping of toxic chemicals into river water equally “unnecessary” if the price was right; supported by farmed statistics suggesting mutant frogs are a boon to the local ecosystem.
While there are certainly flaws with many municipal broadband models, these are decisions that should be made by the communities themselves, not subjective analysts on the payroll of major telecom providers. Fans of a free market should be eager to see the organic free-market at work. If these municipal broadband operations are such a flawed idea: let them fail.
While incumbent providers have every right to declare an area unprofitable, they should not have the right to then ban these communities from wiring themselves. These broadband black holes were created by the providers. They should either fill them or get out of the way, taking their cadre of subjective experts with them.
The country’s largest corporations currently control both sides of the debate over this nation’s broadband policies. They freely voice their opinions via press release (and now blogs) on one hand, then pose as objective experts and even fake consumer groups to support these policies on the other.
What should be a meaningful dialog over this nation’s broadband infrastructure has devolved into a dishonest stage-show where legitimate consumer concerns (such as rural broadband deployment) are increasingly marginalized.