Unleashing Broadband Deployment: Clearing Barriers & Building Smart Infrastructure

Posted: 2 Apr 2015 Last revised: 8 Oct 2015

Date Written: July 22, 2015


Despite all the debate surrounding the FCC’s Open Internet saga, there remains a good deal of consensus when it comes to broadband. Everyone agrees that consumer demand for data and overall traffic flows will continue to grow in the foreseeable future, so we need to ensure that we have broadband infrastructure in place ready to handle that growth. Further, most everyone agrees that Internet access is becoming increasingly critical to education, public safety, and civic engagement — much like the telephone system of the 20th century — so we need to ensure both that everyone has access to a connection, and that they can afford it, even if they are on a tight budget. So, if we accept those premises, the question becomes: How do we flood the market, and oversupply broadband capacity, in order to put downward pressure on consumer prices and allow edge providers and consumers to have enough breathing room to experiment with new data-intensive applications and services?

Essentially, that was the task assigned to the FCC when it had to issue its National Broadband Plan, and the reports from that working group underscore the importance of promoting the deployment of new broadband infrastructure and capacity. The only remaining question is how best to do that? A myriad of different deployment models and strategies have been tried and tested in recent years, to varying degrees of success. In cities like Kansas City and Austin, TX, private companies have negotiated favorable deals with city commissions to get favorable access to rights-of-way and utility poles, thus deploying next-gen gigabit networks to these thriving metropolises. But in other areas, particularly where population density is low, private ISPs are less willing to deploy, so these areas have had to take additional steps to clear barriers to entry and incentivize new deployments. For some places, just incurring the small added cost of installing dig-once conduits under major city streets and state highways is enough to encourage private ISPs to come in and finish the rest of the job, filling the conduits with optical fiber, stringing cables to consumers’ homes, and installing the other various network elements necessary to provide service. For others, it may be necessary to go even further, and deploy dark fiber inside dig-once conduits and lease access to the fiber’s capacity to private ISPs who will then deploy infrastructure and provide service to consumers over the last mile. And for still others, perhaps the business case (i.e., likelihood of receiving a return on investment) is so bleak that consumers can only get access to high quality broadband connections if they are willing to pay to construct the entire network and operate it as a cooperative.

In sum, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to broadband deployment. This paper will address the various barriers to entry that are present in certain markets, the various steps local and state governments have taken to promote broadband deployment, the recent steps taken by the FCC to promote broadband deployment using its authority under Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, and potential steps Congress should consider taking as part of a CommActUpdate, including both general policy goals and specific legislative recommendations.

Note: No poster session

Keywords: broadband, deployment, infrastructure, capacity, Internet

Suggested Citation

Struble, Thomas and Szoka, Berin Michael, Unleashing Broadband Deployment: Clearing Barriers & Building Smart Infrastructure (July 22, 2015). TPRC 43: The 43rd Research Conference on Communication, Information and Internet Policy Paper. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2588222

Thomas Struble (Contact Author)

R Street Institute ( email )

1050 17th Street Northwest
Washington, DC 20036
United States

Berin Michael Szoka

TechFreedom ( email )

110 Maryland Ave NE, Suite 409
Washington, DC District of Columbia 20002
United States

HOME PAGE: http://techfreedom.org

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