The growth of municipal broadband networks

Joly MacFie joly at
Sat Mar 26 00:27:57 CDT 2011

aka the "separation principle" ( Tim Wu - the Master Switch)

What surprised me is that when I put his point to Richard R.John at the
Columbia Big media event back in Nov
<> - John totally agreed with it, citing the
precedent of the telegraph companies being locked out of the telephone
business back in the day.


On Fri, Mar 25, 2011 at 10:52 PM, George Bonser <gbonser at> wrote:

> >
> > It is only in very recent times that we have been able to overlay
> > Internet on both cable and television, and to have television
> > competition via satellite.
> In "the old days" the phone company didn't provide "content".  You
> called someone and the people at each end provided the content or the
> data going over the network.  The phone company simply provided the
> network.  I still believe the biggest mistake we made was breaking up
> the Bell System.  We should have let them be, regulated the crap out of
> them, and then said "no, you can't get into the business of providing
> content".  They system should have been left as a regulated public
> utility.
> > To that end, I think the US would be much better off with fiber to the
> > home on a single distribution infrastructure.  That could be owned and
> > operated by the municipality (like the water system) or owned and
> > operated by a corporation granted an exclusive right to service an
> area
> > (think telephone, at least pre CLEC).
> Yup, bring back "The Bell System".
> > Where you immediately run into a snag is the next layer up.  Should
> the
> > government provide IP services, if the fiber is government owned?
> > Should private companies be required to offer competitors access to
> > provide IP services if the fiber is privately owned?
> I would say they provide network access only, not content.  They would
> be kept out of providing content and kept in the business of reliably
> connecting content to consumer.  That would be their focus.
> > Having looked around the world I personally believe most communities
> > would be best served if the government provided layer-1 distribution,
> > possibly with some layer 2 switching, but then allowed any commercial
> > entity to come in and offer layer 3 services.
> I don't.  What happens when the "government" then decides what content
> is and is not allowed to go over their network?  If one had a site that
> provided a view that the government didn't like, would they cut it off?
> I want the government very strictly limited in what they can and cannot
> do and I want them to have to go to an outside entity for things like
> lawful intercept because it is another check on their power.  A private
> entity might insist that there is a proper warrant or subpoena while the
> government might simply decide to snoop first, get the paperwork later.
> Keeping the network at arm's length from the government helps to make
> sure there is another entity in the loop.
> > For simplicity of
> > argument I like people to envision the local government fiber agency
> > (like your water authority) dropping off a 1 port fiber 4 port copper
> > switch in your basement.
> Big difference.  Water is not a good analogy.  The "content" in that
> case is from a central source and everyone gets the same thing.  With
> the network, you have people communicating back and forth and much of
> that communications is private or expected to be private (say, a phone
> call or a secure financial transaction).  If a private entity screws up,
> it is much easier to fine them or fire the person responsible than it is
> to punish a government department or fire a government worker.  Besides,
> we really don't need yet more people on the government payroll.
> Though I do agree that it is a natural monopoly.  It should be managed
> by a regulated utility that is explicitly prohibited from providing the
> content, only provide access through the network.

Joly MacFie  218 565 9365 Skype:punkcast
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 VP (Admin) - ISOC-NY -

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