March 24, 2006 4:00 AM PST
Perspective: Avoiding half measures on Net NeutralitySee all Perspectives
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Under that bill, network operators would be prohibited from engaging in unfair competitive practices, like blocking certain Internet content, that present a threat of abuse of significant market power.
I agree that Net neutrality is an important principle. But rather than focusing solely on a new complex and unwieldy regulatory structure to assess whether companies are obeying a particular set of rules, Congress should now establish measures that aggressively encourage additional so-called facilities-based competition in the delivery of broadband services.
In an environment in which business models, technologies and citizen requirements are changing faster than any one service provider can embrace, our legislative environment should encourage rapid deployment of a full complement of approaches to keeping our citizens well connected, well served and safe.
Rather than focusing solely on specific legislative "fixes" to ensure neutrality of an individual broadband "pipe," let's rethink our current telecom policies and choose to encourage a wide range of competitors that build a wide choice of broadband pipes to the consumer.
Under this scheme, "old" line carriers can compete by offering advanced, prioritized services and in return accept policies that ensure vibrant competition in the local loop based on new technologies such as Wi-Fi mesh and WiMax, in both licensed and unlicensed spectrum. This means enacting laws that encourage and enable municipalities and new entrants to quickly build competing broadband infrastructure via streamlined access to rights-of-ways, and ensuring that all competitors can get access to additional unlicensed spectrum.
For example, by adopting S. 1294, the Community Broadband Act of 2005, Congress could preclude state legislatures from limiting the ability of local governments to partner with the private sector to bring broadband services to their constituents. Today 300-plus cities in the U.S. have chosen to build these networks, and hundreds more are now in the planning stages. Faced with true competition from new broadband networks, incumbent providers would be unable to use market power to erect new toll roads on the information superhighway--a true, free market solution to the risk of abuse of market power.
Similarly, Congress could free up additional spectrum in the so-called white spaces of the spectrum used by television broadcasters. One of the major limitations we and other companies have faced in seeking to offer a richer diversity of broadband services is access to UHF spectrum such as in the 700MHz range. If made available, this TV spectrum--which is twice as cost-effective to use for Wi-Fi applications--can deliver enhanced broadband services throughout the country. Enactment of white spaces legislation will help bring facilities-based competition to a broadband market that desperately needs it. It will drive innovation. It will bring high-speed Internet access to more Americans at substantially lower costs, especially in rural America.
Ron Sege is CEO of mesh equipment provider Tropos Networks.
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