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Government regulation won't kill broadband

A reader says that the real danger for broadband is not overbearing regulators, but the broadband providers themselves.

    In response to the June 28 Perspectives column by Bartlett Cleland, "Broadband and narrow thinking":

    In almost every article published regarding the negative impact that network sharing requirements place on broadband adoption, one common theme permeates: "If the providers are forced to share their networks, then they will simply not build them."

    I call this the "I'm taking my ball and going home" syndrome, and it is one of the most common erroneous arguments utilized in the broadband debate. Bartlett Cleland's recently published article follows this disturbing trend.

    Cleland states that, "The broadband market today is in a similar position to the cellular industry more than 10 years ago: growing without regulation. Already...2.3 million have DSL (digital subscriber line) technology for high-speed Internet access." This statement completely contradicts the point the author is trying to make, since under current U.S. regulations, Baby Bells are required to allow subloop access to competitors. What this means is that, in spite of the sharing requirements, Baby Bells have made the required infrastructure investments to support over 2.3 million subscribers. Clearly the Baby Bells feel that the investment is worthwhile. It is simply a classic case of economics.

    The real danger for broadband is not overbearing regulators, but the broadband providers themselves. As noted by Cleland, "Broadband allows our imaginations to be the limit of our ability. It allows for Internet telephony, digitally delivered television and movies, interactive distance education, electronic home doctor visits, home monitoring, and more." The reality is that broadband providers are working to change their unlimited high-speed broadband Internet connections into metered, walled-garden environments.

    Suddenly, the end user is not thinking about the limitless potential of their broadband connection. Instead, they are worried that downloading that new "Star Wars" trailer or sending a photo from their daughter's birthday party is going to put them past their arbitrary bandwidth limit. Under those circumstances, users will not have the freedom to expand their Internet experience.

    For broadband to become truly universal, users must have the freedom to choose not only who provides their broadband connection but what they do with it. Network sharing requirements insure that users retain both rights, and that broadband will flourish.

    John Anderson
    Atlanta, Georgia