Dianah Neff, CIO for the city of Philadelphia, says opponents of the city's plan to offer wireless broadband access have a hidden agenda.
Tell me who among incumbent local exchange carriers (ILECs)--have deployed ubiquitous, high-speed wireless networks that support roaming/mobile capabilities. No ILEC. Who provides high-speed, broadband, ubiquitous services at dial-up rates for the underserved populations? No ILEC. Who is working to get equipment and training into the homes of low-income and disadvantaged portions of our community? Again, no ILEC.
For all the money they've spent lobbying against municipal participation, they could have built the network themselves. The truth, of course, is that the incumbent local exchange carriers want unregulated monopolies over all telecommunications.
On this point, Dr. Mark N. Cooper, research director at the Consumer Federation of America, notes that about 95 percent of high-speed Internet access service customers are served by ISPs associated with cable or phone companies. In a paper he wrote for the Journal of Telecommunications and High Technology Law, Cooper found that this dominance was the result of leveraging control of physical facilities, not the result of winning in a competitive market.
Since the 1980s, ILECs have been talking about installing fiber as long as they were given incentives to protect their investments. Now, in Pennsylvania, they've been given another 12 years, and they promise to upgrade some share of the homes passed to fiber optics if, and only if, they don't have to let competitive local exchange carriers (CLECs), Internet service providers or video program providers onto their network. (And by the way, let's prohibit governments from serving their community with low-cost Internet access to strengthen economic development in the neighborhoods, to help overcome the digital divide or to help families with children better communicate with teachers and the administration to improve their kids' education.)
Who says the government is going to be the ISP or build the network? What about the old public-private partnership models? Maybe--just maybe--they should see what the City of Philadelphia is proposing before they attack.