5
Broadband Policy and Regulation

This chapter provides an introduction to the policy context surrounding broadband deployment and discusses specific issues that have shaped the reasoning of the Committee on Broadband Last Mile Technology and that underlie its recommendations. A more detailed history of U.S. regulation related to broadband appears in Appendix B, which is recommended for any reader not familiar with the complex regulatory context within which broadband is being deployed. Note that this chapter does not contain the committee’s policy recommendations, although it lays part of the foundation for them. The committee’s findings and recommendations are presented in “Summary and Recommendations” at the beginning of this volume.

THE CONTEXT FOR BROADBAND POLICY

Broadband—as an extension or phase of the Internet—has been imbued, in media coverage and popular debate, with revolutionary promise that cuts across traditional policy segmentation. Residential broadband has ushered in an era of considerable technological innovation and flux. At the same time that a diverse set of technologies, which are characterized by different performance characteristics (bandwidth, symmetry, transparency, and so on), are available for reaching customers, a powerful convergent platform—the Internet and its core technologies—is increasingly favored for delivery of content, applications, and services. Enabled by this flexible, general-purpose delivery platform, a multiplicity of applications and content supported through a variety of business models



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Broadband Bringing Home the Bits 5 Broadband Policy and Regulation This chapter provides an introduction to the policy context surrounding broadband deployment and discusses specific issues that have shaped the reasoning of the Committee on Broadband Last Mile Technology and that underlie its recommendations. A more detailed history of U.S. regulation related to broadband appears in Appendix B, which is recommended for any reader not familiar with the complex regulatory context within which broadband is being deployed. Note that this chapter does not contain the committee’s policy recommendations, although it lays part of the foundation for them. The committee’s findings and recommendations are presented in “Summary and Recommendations” at the beginning of this volume. THE CONTEXT FOR BROADBAND POLICY Broadband—as an extension or phase of the Internet—has been imbued, in media coverage and popular debate, with revolutionary promise that cuts across traditional policy segmentation. Residential broadband has ushered in an era of considerable technological innovation and flux. At the same time that a diverse set of technologies, which are characterized by different performance characteristics (bandwidth, symmetry, transparency, and so on), are available for reaching customers, a powerful convergent platform—the Internet and its core technologies—is increasingly favored for delivery of content, applications, and services. Enabled by this flexible, general-purpose delivery platform, a multiplicity of applications and content supported through a variety of business models

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Broadband Bringing Home the Bits has emerged. The combination of technological and associated business changes generates considerable uncertainty and questions about what regulatory or other approaches are suited to meeting desired goals in light of this uncertainty. Broadband has been targeted by traditional political players in the various policy arenas, and it has catalyzed the formation of new political alliances. It is subject to past policy developed in part for other telecommunications technologies and is the focus of a number of efforts to shape new telecommunications policy. The previous chapter explained how the characteristics of the different technology options are just a piece of the broadband puzzle. Because the profitability and growth prospects of different kinds of entities are affected by government decisions about what kind of entity can provide what kind of service, and when and where and how it can do so, the policy context has a significant impact—there are no pure investment decisions, and political activity aimed at shaping the context is rampant. While many speak of a desire to deregulate, the nature and terms of regulation have become part of the competitive process. Moreover, there is something fundamentally highly political in the nature of communications technologies and services, beginning with the importance of communications media in the political process itself.1 The recent introduction of a number of pieces of legislation aimed at promoting broadband is another indicator of heightened interest and sometimes intense politicization. Proposed measures include tax credits, grants, subsidized loans, and other financial incentives for deployment in underserved or rural areas; support for research on broadband technologies for rural areas; grants for community planning efforts; changes in the regulation of incumbent local exchange carriers; and changes in universal service fund rules.2 Viewed through the lens of telecommunications policy, broadband involves a system with players and rules at federal, state, and local levels and a long history of political activity that features industry associations old and new, consumer- and issue-advocacy organizations (and consider- 1   For example, the original schemes for allocating radio and television licenses had a political connection, with licenses allocated geographically. 2   Bills that would provide financial incentives include H.R. 267, Broadband Internet Access Act of 2001; H.R. 1415, Technology Bond Initiative; H.R. 1416, Broadband Expansion Grant Initiative; H.R. 1697, Broadband Competition and Incentives Act; H.R. 2139, Rural America Broadband Deployment Act; H.R. 2401, Rural America Digital Accessibility Act; H.R. 2597, Broadband Deployment and Telework Incentive Act; H.R. 2669, Rural Telecommunications Enhancement Act; S. 88, Broadband Internet Access Act; S. 150 Broadband Deployment Act; S. 426, Technology Bond Initiative; S. 428, Broadband Expansion Grant

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Broadband Bringing Home the Bits able activity by lawyers and lobbyists for all parties) seeking to influence legislation, administrative rule making, and court decisions. Organizations addressing broadband as part of their lobbying activity have proliferated; they range from mainstream telecommunications trade associations (such as the United States Telecom Association, the National Cable and Telecommunications Association, and the Organization for the Promotion and Advancement of Small Telephone Companies) to associations of new telecommunications competitors (e.g., the Association for Local Telecommunications Services and the Competitive Telecommunications Association) to technology-specific associations (e.g., DSL Forum and the Home Phoneline Networking Alliance), broadband issues-focused associations (such as the Competitive Broadband Coalition and the OpenNET Coalition), and consumer advocacy organizations (such as Consumers Union, the Center for Digital Democracy, and the Consumer Federation of America). At issue are considerations such as pricing, service definitions, interconnection terms, and rules for the use of public resources (e.g., radio spectrum and rights-of-way) as well as a variety of special needs that are usually met outside of normal market action (e.g., universal service and public safety). Broadband is also associated with issues of privacy, security, and access by law enforcement; the complexity of these particular issues necessitates separate examination, and they are not discussed in this report. Viewed through the lens of competition policy, the economic regulation associated with telecommunications policy is complemented by antitrust and other matters associated with the structure and conduct of provider industries. The action centers on administrative authorizations (with or without conditions) and legal decisions related to mergers and acquisitions. At issue are basic questions of market power and related conduct, such as interconnection and access to directories.     Initiative; S. 966, Rural Broadband Enhancement Act. Bills that would support research include H.R. 2401, Rural America Digital Accessibility Act, and S. 430, Broadband Rural Research Investment Act. Bills that would change ILEC regulation include H.R. 1542, Internet Freedom and Broadband Deployment Act; H.R. 1697, Broadband Competition and Incentives Act; H.R. 1698, American Broadband Competition Act; H.R. 2120, Broadband Antitrust Restoration and Reform Act; S. 1126, Broadband Deployment and Competition Enhancement Act; and S. 1127, Rural Broadband Deployment Act. S. 500, the Universal Service Support Act, would extend universal service fund coverage for broadband. S. 1056, the Community Telecommunications Planning Act, would provide support for community planning grants. (National Journal’s Technology Daily. 2001. Broadband Bill Status. National Journal, Washington, D.C. Available online at <http://nationaljournal.com/pubs/techdaily/briefroom/billstatus/broadband.htm>.)

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Broadband Bringing Home the Bits Viewed through the lens of consumer protection, legislative and administrative actions focus on consumer experiences. These include prices and quality of services, fair and clear billing, broadening of access to underserved areas and populations, linkage to other consumer concerns (e.g., education and health care services), and so on. And there are yet other perspectives. Because the greatest deployment uncertainty and expected impact are in the last mile, broadband policy making at state and local levels looms large. It is at these levels that community and personal impacts are most evident. At state and local levels, economic development is increasingly linked to communications infrastructure because of expectations about how such infrastructure can contribute to economic opportunity (e.g., through skills and job development, attraction of employers, and support for telecommuting) and quality of life (e.g., in terms of educational and health-care resources and community information sharing). Many states and a number of localities have taken a number of initiatives aimed at broadband deployment. Broadband is primarily an issue of domestic policy, but international perspectives arise with respect to competitiveness issues and the international context in which the Internet exists. Recognizing that a diverse set of actors plays a role in shaping broadband policy is important, because it is too easy to narrow the discussion to state and federal regulation of the price of communications services, a dominant historic concern in telecommunications. State and federal legislators, regulatory agencies, the courts, and local governments all influence policy. Decision making takes many different forms: rule making, tariff setting, court cases, and voluntary agreements. The role of cable operators and companies using terrestrial wireless and satellite means that broadband policy encompasses more than traditional telephone rules. Relevant policy spheres include regulation of retail and wholesale rates; interconnection and unbundling rules; local cable franchising; access to poles, conduit, and other rights-of-way; wireless spectrum licensing; universal service rules; and antitrust law. Finally, the committee notes that, much as is the case with other computing and telecommunications sectors, there are often valid conceptual arguments to be made on behalf of a number of different positions and interests in each policy debate. Which position represents the appropriate policy choice is a function of circumstances specific to the matter, but one rarely has the empirical evidence required to support one position definitively over others. Furthermore, the parties with interests in the outcome of a policy debate always represent their own positions as unambiguously right and true. Thus, at some level, one is ultimately working with educated guesses, and some mistakes are inevitable.

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Broadband Bringing Home the Bits POLICY IMPLICATIONS OF TECHNOLOGICAL CHANGE The issues raised by the deployment of broadband technologies and services are in some ways quite different from the ones that policy makers face in regulating the narrowband telecommunications sector. In narrowband, the principal issues facing policy makers today involve the fashioning of policies that will facilitate the efficient conversion of a mature marketplace dominated by a single provider to a competitive marketplace served by different facilities-based and non-facilities-based providers. In the case of broadband, the marketplace is in its infancy and evolving in uncertain directions. Although major technological changes in the public switched telephone network have occurred, such as the movement from party-line to single-line service or the development and deployment of vertical services, the development and deployment of broadband services are occurring over a much shorter time. This leads to difficulties in estimated costs. Trends in the costs of some elements, such as customer premises equipment, can be estimated on the basis of conventional wisdom about Moore’s law and the impact of rising production volumes. But every so often, some kind of component or process innovation can lead to a significant cost change.3 It is not surprising, given this young and evolving marketplace, that the committee found uncertainty in predictions of per-subscriber costs and take-rates. At the same time, infrastructure tends to be enduring, which implies that errors in planning can have long-term consequences—a reality that has contributed to a relatively slow pace of regulatory evolution as well as conservatism in some segments of the telecommunications industry, even in the face of rapid change.4 Regulation in the Face of Rapid Change Historically, even when there was less-rapid technological change in telecommunications, governmental regulators generally have not attempted to control the process of change directly. The Federal Communications Commission can exercise influence over technology for many purposes: to encourage or enable new services, which is the emphasis in this report; to assure certain protections (e.g., against radio frequency interference or safety hazards); and to support certain kinds of uses of the infra- 3   For instance, companies have announced a number of innovations in the mechanics of deploying fiber, such as V-group splicing, blow-in of fiber into conduits, and robotic installation in sewer pipes. 4   For an earlier discussion of different industry cultures, see Computer Science and Technology Board, National Research Council. 1996. The Unpredictable Certainty: Information Infrastructure Through 2000. National Academy Press, Washington, D.C.

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Broadband Bringing Home the Bits structure that are given priority through public policy decisions (e.g., 911 emergency services, law enforcement access capabilities,5 and disability access). Early on, the government posture with respect to the market dominance of AT&T evolved to reflect evidence that AT&T devoted, without a government mandate but with protected revenue, considerable resources to improving the efficiency and capabilities of its network through technological advances. Later, government efforts to open previously closed markets motivated equipment manufacturers and service providers to develop and deploy equipment and facilities that could take advantage of those commercial opportunities.6 Today, for example, literally scores of firms are deploying fiber-optic cables and advanced switches and routers in local and long distance networks to provide voice and data services, a phenomenon that (along with mobile wireless) has been fueled recently by tens of billions of dollars in venture capital. Rather than mandate particular technological solutions, the FCC has tended in recent years to address technology via selected performance requirements against which industry groups could develop specific standards, and even these activities seem to have diminished over time.7 In the turbulent wireless arena, the FCC has been changing its procedures for issuing radio licenses, from adopting auctions for allocation of spectrum to considering a systemwide rather than site-specific licensing approach. Nonetheless, the FCC has been faulted for some of its approaches to new technologies.8 More generally, both regulators and investors have 5   Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act, 47 USC 1001, PL 103-414. 6   In the 1950s, for example, advances in microwave technology (originally developed for the government during World War II) created an alternative system for transmitting telephone calls over long distances, in lieu of AT&T’s embedded system of wires. In 1958, the FCC authorized large businesses to use microwave facilities to construct their own private networks. In 1969, the commission took the next step and permitted firms to compete directly with AT&T for certain types of services. And in the 1980s, with divestiture bringing the realities of competition closer, AT&T executives came to revise their own assessment of the costs of adding fiber in their long-distance network as competitor actions, such as Sprint’s “pin drop” advertisements, made the case more compelling. 7   In the case of “1+” access, for example, the FCC did not specify the particular types of modifications to existing telephone switching equipment that were required to provide “1+” access. Instead, it mandated the performance requirements that the carriers would have to satisfy and allowed the carriers, working with equipment manufacturers, to develop the specific technical modifications. 8   Some argue that both the FCC and AT&T were slow to cultivate cellular telephony, where deployment and commercial service lagged key innovations considerably; that the granting of licenses for UHF television channels proved to be a costly diversion of resources and spectrum; and that the approach taken to standard-setting for advanced (“high-definition”) television serves to slow progress in that arena. See, for example, “A Very Long Distance: A Regulatory Call Put Cell Phones on Hold,” Technology Review, May 2001, p. 110.

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Broadband Bringing Home the Bits guessed wrong on many technologies; it has been easy for people to both over- and underestimate the potential of new technology. This point was emphasized by many participants at the committee’s June 2000 workshop, which included comments on disappointments in such technologies as Integrated Services Digital Network service and multipoint multichannel distribution service (in its video distribution incarnation), among others, for which the technology proved limited in practice, penetration never reached anticipated levels, and better alternative technology was ultimately adopted. Such experiences underscore the fundamental difficulties that regulators have in gauging the coevolution of technologies and markets—and their influence on them.9 The problem of understanding the trends and implications of new technology seems especially acute for the Internet, since few regulatory agency staff, at least at the FCC, have been expert in Internet-related technologies.10 The FCC has recently launched several initiatives aimed at increasing its technical capacity in this and other areas.11 One of the most obvious indicators of the difficulty regulators (and other policy makers) have in keeping up with technology change is the definitions they develop and use. The Telecommunications Act of 1996 refers in general terms to “advanced services.” Required to report to Congress on deployment of advanced services, the FCC subsequently defined these to be at least 200 kbps in either direction.12 As discussed in Chapter2 in this report, this sort of definition is problematical: 200 kbps will increasingly be, at best, a lowest common denominator in an environment 9   At a June 2000 workshop, Thomas Krattenmaker of Mintz, Levin (and previously the FCC and academia) observed: “I would say that any regulation or any response you propose to the FCC that is predicated on your ability to predict what technology will prevail, when, will be a useless recommendation . . . . We are just rife with suggestions, too many of which the Commission has adopted, that were based on some ability to know when technology and which technology was going to be deployed. I don’t think we’re capable of knowing that, and I know the commissioners are not—they’re not selected on that [basis].” 10   Casual observation shows that the FCC has engaged a single Internet-oriented individual in its Office of Plans and Policy since the mid-1990s, and beginning in the late 1990s it engaged chief technologists with Internet expertise, but there are limits to what a couple of specialists in staff positions can accomplish. 11   Steps taken include the 1998 establishment of a Technical Advisory Council and the 2001 launch of an agencywide “Excellence in Engineering” initiative, including hiring and training measures. 12   Broadband Second Notice of Inquiry, Federal Communications Commission (FCC, 2000, “Inquiry Concerning the Deployment of Advanced Telecommunications Capability to All Americans in a Reasonable and Timely Fashion, and Possible Steps to Accelerate Such Deployment Pursuant to Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996: Second Report,” CC Docket No. 98-146, FCC, Washington, D.C., August 21).

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Broadband Bringing Home the Bits where capabilities of many technologies are growing; it is unclear whether bandwidth demand will be symmetrical, as the requirement assumes; and, in any event, the committee believes that use of any static definition is unwise over the long run. The separation, intellectually and culturally, of those setting policy definitions from those developing the technology may be unavoidable, but it has consequences. Thus, broadband is still a very new technology family, as is the Internet in general. The great and general potential of the technology seems clear, but how it might be effectively (and profitably) commercialized is still unclear. During this stage, one can expect to see much experimentation with different business and service models by both private and public providers. It may be wrong to assume that executives whose public remarks exude confidence have deep understanding of all dimensions of the new approaches to networking that they are developing. For example, several people at the committee’s June 2000 workshop acknowledged in discussions that some of their earlier assumptions had proved wrong and that their views were evolving with experience.13 Indeed, the years 1999-2000 saw the nation in the midst of a dot-com and telecommunications euphoria in the financial markets, while 2001 sees the reverse. All these observations, therefore, suggest caution in reading too much into the immediate situation and the importance of business strategists and policy makers staying as flexible as possible during this stage. Asymmetrical Regulation and Achieving Technology Neutrality The development of Internet-based services that can operate over both cable and telephone networks has accentuated convergence and technology neutrality. Cable, DSL, and wireless providers can offer relatively comparable applications and services. Not only do these alternatives each offer high-speed access to the Internet, but each also has the potential to provide services that compete directly with the traditional offerings of other networks (e.g., cable broadband facilities can be used to provide voice services, and DSL can carry streaming video). The unsustainability of competition that may arise with asymmetrical regulation is most severe when two products or services are perfect substitutes for each other. For example, if DSL and cable modem services are 13   For example, in remarks to the committee, Sprint’s Jim Hannan said of his MMDS offering, “We don’t have effective models . . . so we really don’t understand how the network behaves. We’re pushing it every day.” Hannan observed that projected upstream-to-downstream traffic ratios were much higher than what was observed when Sprint deployed its network; this was attributed largely to customer use of Napster.

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Broadband Bringing Home the Bits extremely close substitutes, disparate rule sets are likely to be a significant problem in the long run, unless bundling broadband access with other services (cable television or telephone) creates some differentiation. To the extent they are differentiated in ways that reflect demand heterogeneity, this is less of a problem. Still, even if the platforms do not provide directly compatible services, they may provide services that are nonetheless substitutable for each other. Their convergence notwithstanding, these technologies are for historical reasons subject to separate and substantively different regulatory regimes—a situation characterized by some academics, industry representatives, and FCC officials as regulation in “stovepipes.” At the FCC, stovepipes are embodied in bureaus—cable services, common carrier, mass media, and wireless telecommunications. Those bureaus, in turn, correspond to focused enabling statutes, which reinforce the traditional linkage of technologies with industries and specific services. Appendix B contrasts the regulation of telecommunications common carriers (which affects DSL provision) with that of cable operators. Terrestrial wireless and satellite are subject to yet another set of distinct regulations. Looking across the various stovepipes, the greatest constraints appear to apply to the telephone industry, where rules (retail price regulation and newer market-opening requirements) are intended to inhibit ILECs from taking unfair advantage of their historically dominant position as regulated monopolies in telephony as they enter into other market segments; but one also sees cable franchising provisions being applied to broadband delivered over cable. The issue of asymmetrical regulation of broadband has been highlighted by the current debate over “open access,” discussed in detail below. Cable operators have maintained that the Internet access service offered over their networks is a cable service and, consequently, that they are not required to offer unaffiliated ISPs that wish to reach cable subscribers access to this service. Opponents have claimed that cable operators are engaged in the provision of a telecommunications service when they offer high-speed access to an ISP and, hence, sought to have regulators require cable operators to offer that service on a nondiscriminatory basis to unaffiliated ISPs. (This argument has had traction in the courts; one response has been a move by some cable companies, which have resisted being classified as telecommunications services, to embrace the designation as a way of avoiding franchise payments, illustrating the maneuvering that goes on.) Other parties have contended that government intervention is unnecessary (and may be harmful), because marketplace forces are sufficient to cause cable operators to make access available to unaffiliated ISPs as soon as technical problems are addressed and business arrangements supporting access to multiple ISPs are put in place.

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Broadband Bringing Home the Bits While technical development continues, successful demonstrations and availability of unaffiliated ISPs in some markets suggest that the technical problems of supporting multiple ISPs in cable systems can be overcome.14 Business aspects—such as provisioning and troubleshooting systems— are a focus of current activity. Further confounding the question are technology trends suggesting that fiber will be pushed ever deeper into wireline and terrestrial wireless broadband networks, meaning that provider networks will increasingly resemble each other even in terms of technology, at least in all but the last segment of the access link. As the similarity in both product (services) and delivery technology grows, the distinction between the service-producing and service-delivering industries falls, but whether or how one reconciles the associated regulatory regimes is an open question. Regulatory legacy and convergence aside, some regulatory issues speak to inherent attributes of a technology, confounding any notion of a technology-neutral policy. Implementing local loop unbundling, for example, involves an intimate understanding of the physical environment of that plant. Policy with respect to public rights-of-way involves the details of poles and conduit access for wireline systems and tower siting for wireless. Wireless illustrates another challenge to achieving technology neutrality: with different services—including fixed terrestrial service such as MMDS and mobile services—assigned to different frequency bands, allocating scarce spectrum among these would seem to require making technology- and service-specific trade-offs. In some cases, it is entirely reasonable to make distinctions: one does not have spectrum auctions on fiber, for example. However, when obligations of any kind are imposed—performance obligations certainly—it is generally very difficult or impossible to be completely technologically neutral. How can one treat these services on an even-handed basis despite the differences in the underlying technology? The committee’s assessment of technology options (see Chapter 4) suggests that broadband will not involve a technological horse race or overall regulatory or market choice among technological options. The various access technologies will fill different niches, and multiple connections will be available in many markets (many already have two connections—phone and cable lines—capable of supporting broadband to the 14   For example, in June 2001, AT&T announced that its Boulder, Colorado, open access trials were successful (Richard Williamson, “AT&T Completes First Open Access Cable Trial,” Interactive Week. June 7). Earthlink subscriber information as of October 2001 indicates that its services are available over Time Warner Cable systems in several markets and that more markets will be added in the near future.

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Broadband Bringing Home the Bits home). This diversity suggests that the issue of technology neutrality will be around for some time to come. To the extent that neutrality is not achieved, regulatory actions would favor or disfavor options in ways that could decrease investment incentives or otherwise distort natural market forces in ways unfavorable to consumers. Decreased choice would reduce the likelihood that facilities-based competition emerges or would deprive consumers of particular cost and performance options. The existence of these asymmetries, as well as the looming contradictions that convergence in the access technologies themselves poses, is recognized by regulators. What is less clear is how to craft a solution that improves the situation. One problem may lie in the concept of neutrality and regulators’ goals not to pick winners and losers: neutrality may not be feasible, given the tight coupling between the subjects of regulation and the details of particular technologies. In avoiding tying regulations to technology-specific considerations, one has to find some other space— some more abstract definition of broadband—in which to regulate. Here one is confounded by such factors as the dynamic nature of broadband and the two-way link between technology-specific performance characteristics such as speed and application requirements. Also, absent the specific issues that have been the source of much of telecommunications regulation, what would be the goals of regulation of “broadband”? COMPETITION The establishment of robust competition among multiple telecommunications providers, including broadband and other providers, is a basic premise of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 (Box 5.1). This is viewed by many as the desirable way of making broadband as affordable as possible, though the view is not universal.15 Two principal paths toward competition are contemplated in the present policy regime—(1) unbundling and resale and (2) facilities-based competition—which are discussed in separate subsections below. Unbundling arose in the context of policies aimed at stimulating competition to the ILECs. The 1996 act mandated unbundling of local loops and other network elements. In contrast to unbundling, facilities-based competition involves new entrants using their own equipment and physical network to compete. 15   For example, the National Telephone Cooperative Association (NTCA) commissioned a white paper that concluded that the entry of competitors would decrease the take-rate achievable by any single carrier, which could substantially undermine the financial case for DSL in rural areas where it is already constrained even without competition. NTCA linked the issue to its call for only incumbents to be eligible to receive universal service high-cost-area support payments (Telecommunications Reports, January 15, 2001, p. 6).

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Broadband Bringing Home the Bits Looking Forward For policy makers, the threshold issue is how to determine whether government intervention to accelerate broadband deployment is necessary or desirable. It appears that the problem is not whether most areas will ultimately have some form of broadband service, but rather that in rural areas deployment will occur well after such services are available in more densely populated areas or that the technology options and/or performance will be different in rural areas. The leading broadband technologies today (in terms of installed base and technology maturity) are both wire-based, and it seems likely that for the near term at least, distance and population density will deter their rapid deployment in remote or sparsely settled areas. Because of the added per-passing cost of serving rural areas, different kinds of technical strategies may need to be sought there as compared with those for other (denser) areas; an example would be greater emphasis on wireless links from residences to a fiber backbone (possibly leveraging local government or electric and water utility rights-of-way).51 With broadband satellite services—which may be able to serve these areas more cost-effectively than the wireline alternatives could—having recently been introduced to the market, one finds a situation where there is some form of broadband available in even the most remote areas of the continental United States. It is also encouraging that the initial offering prices of the Starband service suggest that the “rural penalty” may be small (recurring charges for satellite service at $60 per month versus the $30 to $50 per month typical of cable or DSL). However, it is unclear at this point whether these services will be able to achieve and maintain sufficient performance levels to serve as adequate substitutes for the functionality of wireline services, or how their cost and price will compare in the long run with wireline service in more densely populated areas. At today’s broadband penetration levels, it seems premature to make conclusions about the shape of deployment. Consumer technologies generally display an S-shaped adoption curve, which is marked by an initial period of slow adoption, followed by more rapid expansion, and, finally, a leveling off of adoption in the later stages. In the case of narrowband Internet access, NTIA data collected over the past half-decade show that overall access has expanded greatly and that some disparities—such as across sex and race/ethnicity—have narrowed over time, primarily through expansion of dial-up household access and access in the workplace or public facilities. However, this access has largely leveraged near- 51   See Civille et al., “Access to What?,” 2001.

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Broadband Bringing Home the Bits ubiquitous public telephone network lines, and thus, with the exception of some instances where line quality is very poor, has not been hampered nearly as much by technological and economic constraints on where and when new facilities are deployed as broadband would be. Widespread dial-up use suggests that wide segments of the population find Internet access to be of value, and thus suggests widespread demand for broadband. In the case of residential broadband, deployment has been growing rapidly from a presently small base, from which vantage point it is hard to infer the long-term adoption rate, patterns of availability, or the ultimate level of adoption. To the extent that policy makers are simply uncertain about the pace of broadband deployment, the benefits of government intervention to accelerate that process would have to be clear and substantial in light of the risk that such intervention may have unintended and undesirable consequences. Although government policies likely contributed to the high penetration of telephone service in rural areas, application of such policies to broadband could, in theory, deter future entry by competing broadband providers that cannot match the below-cost rates resulting from averaging and other distributional policies. Another risk is that by picking particular technologies or defining particular services, some government programs aimed at bringing a technology to all may end up freezing the technology deployed. Policy makers seeking to promote rapid, efficient broadband deployment should assess the effectiveness of strategies that help avoid these risks—including demand stimulation and aggregation, grant and loan programs, and municipal initiatives fostering market entry and competition. This analysis would require policy makers to collect and review reliable broadband data on an ongoing and timely basis. The development of a comprehensive, national universal service program may well become desirable in the future, once the pace and scope of broadband deployment become clearer. THE LOCAL ROLE IN BROADBAND Seeking to accelerate or enhance the delivery of telecommunications services in their communities, a number of cities, counties, and states have considered or launched initiatives aimed at facilitating, encouraging, or directly building infrastructure for broadband. Historically, the direct local role with respect to telecommunications has been limited largely to negotiating cable franchises. In addition, local governments— absent preemption from higher levels—have control over local features of the deployment environment, such as public rights-of-way, zoning, permitting, and so on. These practical issues affect decisions about special facilities, such as “carrier hotels” and data centers. Local government

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Broadband Bringing Home the Bits influence has been expressed in conflicts over siting for terrestrial wireless towers and satellite dishes. Local governments also control access to rights-of-way and proposals for local investment in conduit that can be deployed once and that contain cable or wire supporting multiple providers and services. Today, communities are exploring how to use these points of leverage as well as other mechanisms and incentives to promote broadband deployment. Local governments have a direct interest in neighborhood, community, municipal, and regional infrastructure, and it is within the community that existing government, corporate, university, and school networks are deployed. Local governments may be in a better position than national providers are to collect and verify local marketplace information, such as discovering and/or aggregating latent demand for broadband services, and these governments involve people whose jobs involve satisfying local interests. Indeed, where local entities have moved to provide local infrastructure, it has typically been when no commercial firm was willing to invest in a given community. Local initiatives are not without their critics, however. For instance, while local decision makers may see benefits from broadband, it can be as hard for them as for service providers to predict and elicit consumer demand52 and design sustainable business models for municipal broadband enterprises. Telephone and cable incumbents tend to protest local efforts to serve more than government users with services procured or provided by government entities.53 Critics also argue that locally based efforts are less likely to be commercially sustainable in the long run, suffering regularly from lack of access to capital to support upgrades. Local efforts may also have insufficient economies of scale to be viable in the long run, and risk becoming overly politicized. Local and regional broadband initiatives cover a wide range of possibilities, from focusing on local government infrastructure to facilitating access for the community at large. Local approaches vary for obvious reasons—size, local market desirability, and whether existing providers have been introducing broadband service. This variation may ultimately 52   Civille et al. (“Access to What?,” 2001) argue for demand cultivation in combination with access promotion through community economic development programs. Their ac-knowledgment that growing demand may take work—that simple access is not sufficient— implicitly supports the view that accelerating deployment is risky. 53   ”Private-sector carriers say they shouldn’t have to compete with the entities that regulate their rates, grant them operating certificates and franchises, control their access to vital rights-of-way, and tax them” (“Community Size: The Difference in Cities’ Telecom Choices?” Telecommunications Reports, December, 4, 2000, pp. 36-38).

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Broadband Bringing Home the Bits limit what can be learned or replicated from any specific instance, but an informal network of supporters of local efforts has fostered the exchange of relevant information, including approaches to architecture, contracting, and financing, to maximize opportunities for local officials to learn from others.54 The examples listed in Box 5.2 indicate the sorts of initiatives that have been undertaken at the local or regional level.55 They include, for example, public operation of a multiservice network, where a municipal or county agency is the operator, providing retail services to the end user. Municipal service monopolies are not unusual—water or sewer authorities are the dominant model, and public power utilities are found in a number of locales—but the high level of complexity and rate of change in telecommunications technology compared with water or electricity supply pose a risk. And as noted above, this approach may raise objections from private sector providers, who see the public service as being unfairly subsidized. However, if there is no private sector provider on the horizon, it may be an attractive option. Another option is some form of public-private partnership. Again, this raises concerns about the risk in a government body’s entering into what may be a long-term relationship with a selected private sector player. If the relationship sours, it may be difficult to replace the private sector player. This sort of approach runs the same risk as that with exclusive cable franchising—communities may derive revenue or other benefits from the arrangement, but the partner may not deliver the level or quality of service desired. Additional complications arise if the public sector has contributed funding to the venture. The drawbacks of the approaches listed above argue that local governments concentrate on taking steps to encourage and facilitate competition among private sector players rather than creating new quasimonopolistic entities. As a public sector partner with multiple private providers, a public agency would not be competing with a private sector retail service provider. Another advantage of this strategy is that it means that private sector providers do not have to negotiate with each other to 54   One ongoing effort that attracted the attention of this committee has been the work of Bill St. Arnaud as part of Canada’s CANARIE program. See <http://www.canarie.ca/>. 55   The Community Broadband Deployment Database, established by the National Regulatory Research Institute at Ohio State University for the Federal Communications Commission, lists more than 200 community broadband programs, covering a range of technologies, target user groups, and funding sources. See <http://www.nrri.ohio-state.edu/programs/telcom/broadbandquery.php>.

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Broadband Bringing Home the Bits obtain access to facilities, which reduces the need to regulate their conduct. Easing access to rights-of-way is the simplest step, but this may not be enough to induce new entrants. Another option is for a local or regional government agency to install fibers (or conduits through which fibers can later be pulled) and use this investment to lower the barriers to entry by private sector players by making the infrastructure available to them. This approach can be implemented in a number of ways. One is the “fiber condominium” model, in which a locality declares its intention to build out fiber along its streets and invites any interested parties to purchase some share of the fibers installed (and possibly installs additional dark fiber for future use). Typically, some provision is made to lease colocation space for service providers at the fiber termination points. Alternatively, the locality may enter into partnerships with one or more private sector companies to install (and possibly maintain) the fiber. The town itself can sign up, as can schools and municipal departments, businesses and other private sector players in the town, citizens themselves, and any interested broadband providers. The locality provides the motivation and coordination for joint action—it shares in the cost of the common construction, but it may also prohibit the digging up of streets again for some period after the construction. By avoiding the extra cost of uncoordinated overbuilding—keeping down the per-passing costs—this approach attempts to provide competition at per-passing costs comparable with those of a single provider. Local and regional government or quasi-governmental agencies can also act in effect as anchor tenants that underwrite some of the cost of installing infrastructure, reducing the costs for other government agencies, private sector firms, or even individual customers. The consequence of this action is that more providers may be motivated to enter the market in the town. Finally, localities may choose to launch experimental pilot projects to explore new technologies, system architectures, or business models. State or federal grants can help support communities exploring options or enable them to purchase facilities that today are more costly than they will be in the future when suppliers are able to achieve scale economies in the production of such equipment. Such pilot efforts can demonstrate the viability of systems, demonstrate the extent of demand for them at the local level, and support achievement of scale in use, either by closing access gaps or increasing interest in use. The state or federal role is appropriate, given that results of the experiment can help inform future private sector or public sector initiatives using similar systems. New developments can also build in broadband infrastructure, as is beginning to happen (Box 5.3).

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Broadband Bringing Home the Bits BOX 5.2 Some Examples of Municipal and Regional Broadband Initiatives Blacksburg, Virginia. The Blacksburg Electronic Village (BEV) initiative began in 1991 with a public-private agreement between the town of Blacksburg, Bell Atlantic (now Verizon), and Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. When service launched in 1993, BEV provided Blacksburg residents with dial-up access. Also, starting in 1994, integrated services digital network (ISDN) and Ethernet have been made available to an increasing number of townhomes and apartments. Because dial-up access became available from commercial providers, BEV turned over its modem pool customers to the private sector in 1995, and similarly transferred its Ethernet operations to the private sector in 1998. At present, 87 percent of Blacksburg residents are online, according to BEV information. Currently, efforts are under way to develop a townwide all-fiber network, to integrate wireless with wireline services, and to develop a broadband switch point and exchange for advanced network services. BEV was prevented from extending service to surrounding areas because, after industry lobbying, a law was passed to preclude this government service provider role.1 Abingdon, Virginia. In December 1995, a group of citizens met to discuss the potential of providing residents of Abingdon with high-speed Internet connectivity. These activities led ‘to the launch of the Electronic Village Abingdon (EVA) initiative. In addition to modem and ISDN connections, a fiber-optic connection from the town manager’s office to the hospital and the Washington County Main Library was established as a partnership between the Town of Abingdon and Sprint. On the basis of results of early trials, the project was expanded. During Phase I, EVA’s fiber-optic service was extended in the downtown area, providing high-speed connections to every building within 150 feet of the fiber backbone. Phase II, under way in 2001, is a collaborative effort with Highlands Union Bank to extend the fiber-optic cable toward the west of Abingdon. The network provides 10-Mbps connectivity within the town network and Internet connectivity at 1.54 Mbps. Subscribers need to purchase a fiber-optic transceiver (about $150) and pay a one-time installation charge of $75. Monthly access fees are $35 per month for 10 Mbps and a single Internet Protocol (IP) address. Recently, 100-Mbps service has been added for $70 per month.2 Berkshire County, Massachusetts. Berkshire Connect was established through a 1997 grant of $250,000 from the Berkshire legislative delegation and the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission. A project task force committee, with representatives from cultural institutions, local businesses, public access organizations, and local business con-sultants, was established to propose a strategy for enhancing Berkshire County’s infrastructure and to reduce the cost of networking government agencies. The original strategy called for Berkshire Connect to partner with the private sector and use a mix of public and private funds to build the infrastructure, but Global Crossing/Equal Access, the winning bidder, agreed to build the infrastructure without using public funds. The agreement establishing the service offers volume pricing, with prices for all members decreasing as more subscribers sign up. Berkshire Connect competes with the incumbent LEC, Verizon, in 1   Blacksburg Electronic Village (BEV). 2001. “About the BEV.” Available online at <http://www.bev.net/project/brochures/about.html#2>. 2   See the Electronic Village Abingdon home page online at <http://www.eva.org/>.

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Broadband Bringing Home the Bits both the retail and wholesale markets, though it claims more success in the wholesale market (providing backbone services to other providers). Berkshire Connect does not offer residential or last mile service at present, but is currently working to define a business strategy for last mile service. It is also exploring new business relationships with other Massachusetts regional networks.3 LaGrange, Georgia. Through the LaGrange Internet TV initiative, the City of LaGrange, Georgia, provides Web access to all cable television subscribers in this community of 27,000 residents. In 1998, Charter Communications, Inc., and LaGrange entered into a leaseback agreement in which the city financed and constructed a two-way hybrid fiber coax network (using city funds, without state or federal support). Using World-Gate’s Internet on EVERY TV Service, it allows LaGrange cable TV subscribers to have Web access at no additional cost.4 Glasgow, Kentucky. In 1994, as Glasgow was being wired for cable, town officials decided to facilitate Internet traffic via cable as well. The 12-year-old Glasgow fiber-optic system, one of the first of its kind, provides relatively inexpensive cable and high-speed Internet services to 8,000 homes and businesses, or two-thirds of the local market for cable. According to its managers, it has broken even for the past 4 years. Proponents note that the network has been moderately successful in spurring local economic activity. For example, Franchino Mold & Engineering Co. is cited as having opened a new facility in Glasgow in 1998, in part because the city’s network allowed for an easy exchange of data with engineers at the company’s Lansing, Michigan, headquarters. Two-thirds of Glas-gow’s businesses and a quarter of its residences now pay for broadband cable. The town’s network connectivity is also used for a variety of other functions including controlling traffic lights, coordinating utility repairs, and plotting school bus routes.5 Washington County, Ohio. Seeing inadequate broadband facilities in the county, the nonprofit Washington County Community Improvement Corporation (CIC) launched a nonprofit corporation, Sequelle, to provide terrestrial wireless broadband communications to southeastern Ohio and the mid-Ohio Valley region, targeting business and educational customers. Using a mixture of state and federal startup funds, it plans to launch service in 2001.6 Chicago, Illinois. Chicago’s CivicNet is a citywide initiative to build a new broadband infrastructure for government, businesses, other institutions, and residents. The city plans to use the $32 million it spends each year on voice and data communications to become an “anchor tenant” for a high-speed fiber-optic network, to be constructed in partnership by one or more lead technology vendors. The city also plans to make city-owned or -controlled conduits and tunnels available to reduce installation costs. The 3   Sources include the Berkshire Connect home page, which is available online at <http://www.bconnect.org/>; “FCC Hearing, May 22, 2000,” which is available online at <http://www.bconnect.org/FCChearing5_00.htm>; and a personal communication with Bill Ennen, Donahue Institute of the University of Massachusetts, April 19, 2001. 4   See <http://www.lagrange-ga.org>. 5   See David Armstrong and Dennis K. Berman, 2001, “Municipal Networks Become Rivals for Fiberoptic Telecom Companies: Dissatisfaction Spurs Competition,” CNBC and The Wall Street Journal, August 17. Available online at <http://www.msnbc.com/news/615215.asp#BODY>. 6   For more information, see the Sequelle home page online at <http://www.sequelle.com/>.

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Broadband Bringing Home the Bits ultimate goal is for fiber networks to extend to every neighborhood, and ultimately down every street.7 Lane and Klamath Counties, Oregon. The Lane Klamath Regional Fiber Consortium, formed by Lane and Klamath Counties and the cities of Coburg, Chiloquin, Klamath Falls, Lowell, Merrill, Oakridge, Springfield, and Westfir, negotiated joint agreements with Pacific Fiberlink (now Worldwide Fiber). In return for assistance with permitting and an exchange in lieu of right-of-way fees, the local governments received 12 strands of fiber installed in a contiguous strand extending approximately 200 miles from Coburg to Merrill, with points of access in the cities and significant county points along the route. Consortium members plan to use this fiber to increase communication opportunities to all the residents along the route and in communities adjacent to it.8 Marietta, Georgia. In 1996, Marietta FiberNet became Georgia’s first municipally owned company to be certified as a competitive local communications carrier. Wholly owned and operated by Marietta, it is structured as a separate business. The company began constructing its network in the spring of 1997. Today Marietta FiberNet provides high-speed voice and data services to local schools, hospitals, and businesses over 170 miles of fiber-optic cables. Thomasville, Georgia. Thomasville’s Community Networks Services (CNS) operates a citywide fiber-optic network capable of supporting high-speed Internet access, cable television, and energy management services, as well as a dial-up Internet access service. CNS now has more than 3,000 customers for its Rose.Net Internet service and expects many of those customers to move up to Rose.Net express, a broadband Internet service, when it becomes available. Thomasville recently entered into an agreement with neighboring Tifton through which it will help launch Tifton’s proposed Friendly City Network’s Internet service.9 Grant County, Washington. The Grant County Public Utility District (PUD) initially launched its fiber network, Zipp, in order to upgrade its electrical substation control. It later decided that the network could also be used to provide telecommunications services in the county. Through Zipp, independent service providers can provide data, voice, and video services to their customers. The PUD’s fiber backbone was completed in 2000, and pilot projects aimed at commercial and residential customers are underway. In 2001, the PUD began marketing to the general public. Major residential fiber construction and buildout are slated to take place between 2001 and 2006 to reach 90,000 homes.10 Muscatine, Iowa. Muscatine Power and Water (MP&W), the town’s incumbent, municipally owned public utility, was first to deploy high-speed facilities in Muscatine. Following a 1996 marketing study and detailed feasibility study, the communications utility was launched following approval by public referendum in 1997. The communications utility received $18 million in initial funding from the municipal electric utility and 7   See Department of General Services, Bureau of Telecommunications and Information Technology, City of Chicago. 2000. “Request for Information: Chicago CivicNet” (Specification No. B09189503), November. Available online at <http://www.cityofchicago.org/CivicNet/civicnetRFI.pdf>. See also Tom Kontzer. 2001. “Chicago’s CivicNet Takes a Step Closer to Reality,” InformationWeek.com [January 4]. Available online at <http://www.informationweek.com/story/IWK20010104S0007>. 8   See <http://www.ruralfiber.net/lkpage.html>. 9   See Georgia Municipal Association. 1999. “Tifton and Thomasville Enter Internet Agreement,” October 7. Available online at <http://www.gmanet.com/news/1999/1007.internet.shtml>. See also Thomasville Utilities Community Network Services (CNS). 1999. “Press Releases.” Available online at <http://www.tucns.com/press.html>. 10   See the Zipp Fiber-optic Network home page online at <http://www.gcpud.org/zipp/>.

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Broadband Bringing Home the Bits completed construction of its fiber network in the spring of 1999. MP&W provides high-speed cable modem Internet access to residential customers and a Municipal Area Network for business customers. MP&W’s telecommunications network consists of a hybrid fiber coax system with 125 homes per node, which can deliver a maximum of 4 Mbps downstream and 1 Mbps upstream for connected customers. MP&W obtains its connection to the Internet backbone through a division of Iowa Network Services, Inc. (INS), a telecommunications firm formed by a consortium of 128 independent telephone companies.11 Ashland, Oregon. Building on Ashland’s earlier fiber network initiative, local Internet companies are cooperating with the city to establish a new service, dubbed “Ashland Unwired.” In early 2001, the effort began with a demonstration at Ashland’s Starbucks coffee shop. Using access points running the IEEE 802.11b-standard wireless local area network technology, it aims to provide wireless Internet access via the city’s fiber network. Project A and Open Door Networks, city-certified Internet service providers, have offered to provide connectivity through the Ashland Fiber Network and assistance to help any business or organization wishing to provide Ashland Unwired to their customers.12 Tacoma, Washington. The city’s public utility, Tacoma Power, began its networking activities with the construction of a fiber-optic network in 1997. In 1998, it launched cable television service as a competitor to the existing franchisee (TCI, now AT&T). In 1998, it began providing Internet service over the cable television network and began full cable modem service in 1999.13 San Diego County, California. The High Performance Wireless Research and Education Network (HPWREN) project was launched in 2000 to build, demonstrate, and evaluate a noncommercial, prototype, high-performance, wide-area, wireless network in San Diego County. Built by researchers at the University of California at San Diego under a $2.3 million grant from the National Science Foundation, the network includes backbone nodes on the UC San Diego campus and a number of rural areas in San Diego County, including the Pala and La Jolla tribes in remote San Diego County. Among HPWREN’s goals are to explore how scientists can make use of the network for real-time data collection and how the network can be used by rural Native American communities for interactive computer classes and remote tutoring programs. In addition to the research and education applications, the HPWREN team is also investigating ad hoc advanced network development and experimentation in collaboration with local crisis management agencies.14 11   See <http://www.mpw.org>. Case study reported in Federal Communications Commission. 2000. “Inquiry Concerning the Deployment of Advanced Telecommunications Capability to All Americans in a Reasonable and Timely Fashion, and Possible Steps to Accelerate Such Deployment Pursuant to Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996: Second Report,” CC Docket No. 98-146, August. Available online at <http://www.fcc.gov/Bureaus/Common_Carrier/Orders/2000/fcc00290.pdf>. 12   See Ashland Fiber Network. [Undated]. “Frequently Asked Questions.” Available online at <http://www.ashlandfiber.net/index.asp?page=FAQ#1>. See also Ashland Unwired. 2001. “Open Door Networks and Project A Unveil Wireless Internet Access in Ashland” [press release], January 29. Available online at <http://www.ashlandunwired.com/news.htm>. 13   See Tacoma Power, Click! Network. [Undated.] “Project History.” Available online at <http://www.click-network.com/news/history.htm>. 14   See the HPWREN home page at <http://hpwren.ucsd.edu/>, as well as Hans-Werner Braun’s testimony before the House Science Committee’s Subcommittee on Research, July 31, Washington, D.C., available online at <http://www.house.gov/science/research/jul31/braun.htm>. See also “Wireless Internet to Native American Reservations,” PopularTechnologies.com, [undated], available online at <http://www.populartechnologies.com/news/01/02/15/0414200.shtml>.

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Broadband Bringing Home the Bits BOX 5.3 Examples of Greenfield Developments New community and subdivision developments are increasingly incorporating broadband fiber-to-the-curb or fiber-to-the-home with other advanced exterior and interior networking infrastructure and services. These projects are often joint ventures between building developers who own the properties and rights-of-way; convergent telecommunications providers; and real estate investors and homeowners. Several examples follow: Centennial, Indiana. HFC Internet, phone, and cable provided to 900 homes north of Indianapolis by the builder, Estridge Company, and First Mile Technologies. The cost will be repaid through homeowners’ association fees. DC Ranch, Scottsdale, Arizona. All homes are being built with structured wiring to support in-home networking. Celebration, Florida. In a Disney-built new community near Orlando, AT&T, Sprint, and Jones Communications have formed a joint venture to provide connectivity.1 Summerlin, Nevada. In a community outside Las Vegas, fiber-to-the-curb is being installed by the Howard Hughes Corporation and Sprint.2 Valencia and Newhall Ranch, California. In communities developed by Newhall Land & Farming, SBC Communications is providing broadband voice, video, and data to homes through a revenue-sharing venture with the developer. Hatchet Ranch, Colorado. Rye Telephone of Colorado City is installing fiber to 500 homes in an 80-square-kilometer new community.3 1   See the Celebration, Florida, home page online at <http://www.celebrationfl.com/>. 2   For more information, see “Summerlin: A Profile,” available online at <http://www.therousecompany.com/whoweare/hughes/summprofile.html>. 3   Information from <http://www.fone.net.soco/guide/colocity/rtc/home.html>; Robert Pease. 2000, “Rural Areas Present Better Business Case for Fiber to the Home,” Lightwave, June, available online at <http://lw.pennnet.com/Articles/Article_Display.cfm?Section=Archives&Subsection=Display&ARTICLE_ID=73404&KEYWORD=Hatchet%20Ranch>; and Canet-3NEWS, 2000, “Rural Areas Better Business Case for Fiber to the Home,” November 2, available online at <http://www.canarie.ca/MLISTS/news2000/0185.html>. The risk in all of these possibilities is that the local government will not be equipped with the knowledge or skills to negotiate with a large private sector provider. If the town does not act carefully, there is risk of industry capture, an outcome in which a private sector provider manipulates the situation to the point where the town becomes dependent on it and thus loses any power to negotiate or foster competition. With some notable exceptions, local governments are less likely to be familiar with the technology and business side of networking than they are with more

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Broadband Bringing Home the Bits traditional government operations, which places them at a disadvantage in planning or acquiring networking infrastructure or services than a private sector firm would be. The risk can be minimized if the town sticks to a facilitating role at the infrastructure level and encourages competition from the outset. Still, industry is not monolithic, and some companies can be expected to favor and others to resist local efforts to foster market entry. Local governments, especially in smaller communities, often have limited capabilities. Action at the higher levels of government is an important part of this local approach as well, to coordinate experiences, to catalog best practices, and to define the playing field with overarching regulation that prevents the obvious forms of mutual abuse.