Last week I talked about defining a vision of what we want. Today, I want to outline the major choices for this vision and then we can explore these choices deeper over time.
As we have looked at the problem of getting more universal broadband at higher speeds deployed, there are fundamentally two camps. The first camp wants this to be done by increasing competition. The second camp wants to do this with additional regulation. In order to get additional competition, there might actually be a requirement for increased regulation. By changing the regulatory paradigm, we might actually get increased competition. Let me start with the additional competition camp.
You probably have read about or know some folks that want overbuilders or municipal networks to be created. This is how people see additional competition being created. Overbuilders are those non-incumbent providers who build their own facilities. The largest example would be Google Fiber, but there are many regional and local examples of this type of player. Some of these players work with or are started by the local community. Project Utopia in Utah is such a network. There has been mixed results with these types of networks, often blaming the incumbents for the failure of the network.
The alternative is to go back in time and create a regulated utility network like we had with Phone Service prior to the breakup of AT&T. In this case, regulators (State PUCs and FCC) would have to build a plan to have the utility follow in order for it to operate effectively. The challenge with this is structural. These utilities are now mixed in with non-utility elements of the business. The good news is that if could define a common way for this network to be built, we might be able to spur additional service competition.
I want to note that this is focused on Residential Networks. Business networks have had both a wholesale and retail component for some time. The question is how do you choose which path to follow. By default, we are on the attempting to increase competition path. I would argue that not much is going to change on this front unless people get exasperated by the cost and availability of high speed networks. For all the complaining about this topic, it has not actually generated a lot of will for change.
So, I will expand down this branch first. Have a great weekend!
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