Academic journal article Federal Communications Law Journal

Achieving Bandwidth Abundance: The Three Policy Levers for Intensifying Broadband Competition

Academic journal article Federal Communications Law Journal

Achieving Bandwidth Abundance: The Three Policy Levers for Intensifying Broadband Competition

Article excerpt

TABLE OF CONTENTS   I. INTRODUCTION                                                   398 II. THREE QUESTIONS TO UNDERSTAND THE POLICY LEVERS FOR INTENSIFYING BROADBAND COMPETITION                                 400     A. What Do We Want Broadband Competition to Accomplish?        400     B. Where Does Broadband Competition Come from?                 402     C. Given the Current Market, What Are the Appropriate        Government Levers to Intensify Competition at This Part        of the Cycle?                                               408        1. Lever One: Spectrum                                      411        2. Lever Two: Lower Deployment Costs                        412        3. Lever Three: Wi-Fi Based Mobile Entry                    416 III. CONCLUSION                                                    419 


Broadband competition generates many discussions and speeches. In the last couple years, the three most important speeches were by current Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler, (1) then-FCCGeneral Counsel Jon Sallet, (2) and then-Assistant Attorney General Bill Baer for the Department of Justice's Antitrust Division. (3) All three made policy pronouncements on regulatory approaches and merger analysis consistent with their official positions and actions. (4)

This Article represents a progress report from the field, deriving its data from game theory and lessons learned while working in the government on both the Telecommunications Act of 1996 and the National Broadband Plan, (5) as well as broadband competition initiatives such as Gig.U and Republic Wireless. (6) While my thoughts are consistent with those speeches, (7) they are in conflict with a great deal of what others have said about competition and broadband.

Two illustrations of that conflict:

1. Techdirt blogger Karl Bode's article argued that Google Fiber proved the worthlessness of the National Broadband Plan, (8) ignoring how the Plan stimulated the Google's Fiber effort, how both Google and the Plan made similar recommendations for policy changes, and most of all, how his own proposal--unbundling--would have killed Google Fiber; (9) and

2. Former FCC chairman Julius Genachowski's speech articulated the need for Gigabit networks, (10) but did not offer any analysis as to why these networks nor any strategy for getting them deployed are in place, other than to "challenge" cities and states to build them, (11) as if the only thing preventing such development was his personal failure to challenge cities or the only power the FCC had was to request such action.

There are critiques on the substance of these pieces elsewhere, (12) but in short, what Mr. Bode and Chairman Genachowski have in common is a belief in the magic of words, as if the incantation of the word "competition" or "gigabit," if said enough, or loudly enough, is a substitute for a realistic plan followed by concrete steps to achieve it. (13)

Sadly, much of the commentary on the topic suffers from a similar flaw. (14) This fundamental aspiration error (15)--the mere statement of aspiration correlates to the desired change--affects much of the debate about broadband. Those who commit this error only wish to own a narrative, instead of owning the problem.

Actual change starts with owning a problem, which requires starting with a framework, engaging in action, allowing for experimentation and course correcting in light of evidence.

The trial and many errors of my own work have led me to believe in the following bottom line: the highest priority for government broadband competition policy ought to be to lower input costs for adjacent market competition and network upgrades. (16) The greatest opportunity to do so is to create a virtuous cycle of upgraded mobile stimulating low-end broadband to upgrade, which in turn stimulates an upgrade of high-end broadband, which uses its assets to enter mobile and accelerates the need for mobile to further upgrade. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.