Last time I posted on Net Neutrality, I ended with the notion that we need to set a policy that encourages investment. I want to start there today and go forward with some thoughts about that.
Many of you have not worked at a Service Provider. Because of that, I want to provide a bit more background around investment of capital. The thing that you may not realize is that an ISP could spend much more money than it does if it executed on all the projects that it could. The challenge is that given staff sizes, balance sheets and other issues only a specific number of projects are funded every year. These are done for either regulatory or Return On Investment (ROI) reasons.
This last creates a large set of problems that are difficult to resolve. For example, one of the reasons that many places see slow deployment of broadband services in rural areas is that they have a lower ROI than more urban ones. Without subsidies, it is unclear that much can be done to change that. So when budgets are reviewed many Rural Broadband projects just don’t make the list of things to be done.
What regulatory changes like Net Neutrality can do is impact business cases. If you were an ISP, would you invest your money if the rules were about to change? That is why AT&T came out recently and said that it would not add more Gigabit Cities until it had clarity on the rules.
The thing that I come back to on this is that maybe it is time to make Broadband a Universal Service. That is different than Net Neutrality. Universal Service means that a Carrier of Last Resort MUST provide you with the Universal Service regardless of the costs involved Today, the only Universal Service is POTS (Plain Old Telephone Service). If fixed Broadband was a Universal Service then we would have 100% availability. To do this, we might have to have the same kind of High Cost Loop Support we had for POTS.
That might solve the Access Problem. Then we could get to the next problem where we need to understand the notion of how services will be treated by ISPs…aka Net Neutrality.
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