by Ann Treacy • There are growing calls for the economic stimulus package to include funds for telecommunications infrastructure. I think that this is a great idea. Unfortunately, the calls for this funding always include the phrase “underserved areas.” I do not know of many areas in the United States that are “over-served.” By most definitions of high-speed broadband, most locations – urban, suburban and rural – are underserved. In my suburban Twin Cities home, I have only one choice for broadband.
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I know that the stimulus package has job creation as a primary goal, but we should also be strategic in our investments so that maximum competitive advantage is gained with these expenditures with borrowed money. The benefit has to extend to the life of the bonds used to pay for the investment, not just pump money into the economy.
These funds should be available to all providers – incumbents, CLECs, cable companies, community networks, wireless companies, to whoever can demonstrate that their plan is sound, financially and technically. I do agree with the ideas that these networks should be open to competitors, once again, as a way to increase the value that the public derives from these investments. It is truly unfortunate, that the federal government has zero policies on the importance of broadband, the definition of broadband, open access networks, urban-suburban-rural investment priorities. If we did, this funding would be guaranteed to have a positive impact. I worry now that we will be hearing many stories of “fiber to nowhere.”