The Fiber to the Home Council recently asked the Federal Communications Commission to create a $150 million/year program to subsidize construction of 1 Gbps fiber networks in “Gigabit Communities.” We teamed up with the International Center for Law & Economics to file comments urging the FCC to focus on removing anticompetitive barriers to broadband deployment instead. An excerpt from the filing:
Most people want to use the Internet to surf the Web, send emails and watch videos. And whether they have to pay for it directly, through taxes, or through forestalled investment elsewhere, there’s little evidence that they want or need the broadband equivalent of supersonic transport to do what they want to do online. Perhaps most important, there is no evidence of market failure in need of correction — no evidence that today’s ISPs and today’s infrastructure are failing to offer the speed and other characteristics that users demand, nor that they will fail to do so in the future. Broadband is getting faster – just not fast enough for those who think of broadband the way people once thought of the Concorde.
Before we use taxpayer funds to subsidize the Concorde of the Internet, we should be sure there is a sound basis for doing so. ISPs are already supplying broadband well excess of current and anticipated demand (as defined by speed, capacity, latency, etc.) and ISPs seem fully capable of meeting all anticipated demand. Moreover, this is true based on current and future investment by ISPs (more than $50 billion worth in 2012 alone according to the Progressive Policy Institute) — investment that has been sufficient to ensure that there has never yet been a real supply bottleneck in broadband.
This isn’t to say there’s no role for government. There are some impediments to the sort of broadband connectivity people actually do want — most importantly local and state regulations that reduce competition and increase the cost of new facilities. The FCC should consider ways to encourage state and local governments to reduce these regulatory barriers rather than create an expensive new program to subsidize a particular technology (fiber) picked because of an arbitrary, top-down decision that people should have a certain speed – even if they don’t yet want it.
Read the full comments encouraging the FCC to focus on the Fiber to the Home Council’s recommendations for what a city can do to become a “Fiber-Friendly Community,” and check out the other work we’ve done on broadband deployment – especially our recent radio debate with Susan Crawford.