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How to turn a world leader into a fourth-rate broadband economy

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The Communications Workers of America then calls on public policies to safeguard consumers and workers. Government should require public reporting of deployment, actual speed, price, and customer service benchmarks. It calls on policymakers to ensure that every American gains access to the benefits of the information age.

But the point it made about broadband in Japan being way faster at the same price is perhaps the most indicative point in forming a new strategy. There’s a lot of importance in that statement. Countries which have similar labor costs to the US, should be able to build out infrastructure at about the same price.

Yet it is actually the competition and the way this has been allowed to prosper in other countries which has made the low prices and the rapid deployment possible. During the Bush administration, the RBOCs were allowed to eliminate CLECs by removing externally set attachment prices.

They were also allowed to dither on long overdue fiber build outs, because they wanted to be sure that CLECs, or anything like them, could not re-emerge. Only in the US could the Courts castrate the decision making of the regulator, leading to a growing unhealthy monopoly of the fixed communications infrastructure.

And to add to all of this, the FCC and Justice Department under the Bush administration thought it was okay for SBC to buy both AT&T and Bellsouth, and recreate something close to the 1980s monopoly monstrosity of AT&T. The US has effectively gone backwards in its communications policies for a dozen years, and the Obama administration has to both catch up that lost 12 years, as well as generate growth going forwards.

What we find disturbing is that the major broadband corporations have spurned the Broadband Stimulus package, electing not to help the call to improved broadband, whilst being prepared to ignore $billions in government aid. They are all making obscene monopoly style profits in- stead of being under the cosh of regulator enforced price falls.

Overall, we look at the 10 point plan of the Communications Workers of America and its Speed Matters campaign and see that it has way too much carrot and not enough stick to get the job done. Without it, the US is destined to continue its slide into a fourth rate broadband economy.

Copyright © 2009, Faultline

Faultline is published by Rethink Research, a London-based publishing and consulting firm. This weekly newsletter is an assessment of the impact of the week's events in the world of digital media. Faultline is where media meets technology. Subscription details here.

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