The growth of municipal broadband networks

Richard Bennett richard at
Sat Mar 26 15:28:35 CDT 2011

   I think the motive for the traditional separation actually was
   completely different from the one for new separation. Silos had the
   effect of limiting competition for specific services, while the avowed
   goal of functional separation mandates is to increase competition.
   Opportunities for service competition between the telegraph and
   telephone networks were limited by technology in the first instance -
   you couldn't carry phone calls over the telegraph network anyway
   because it was a low bandwidth, steel wire system with telegraph office
   - to telegraph office topology - but you could carry telegrams over the
   phone network, but only if permitted by law.
   In a sense, ARPANET was telegraph network 2.0, and even used the same
   terminals initially. Paper tape-to-tape transfers became ftp, the
   telegram became email, and kids running paper messages around the
   office became routers switching packets.
   The layer 0 model has some merit, but has issues. In areas nobody wants
   to provide ISP services, and there is still a tendency toward market
   consolidation due to economies of scale in the service space.
   Facilities-based competition remains the most viable model in most
   places, as we're seeing in the UK where market structure resembles the
   US more than most want to admit: Their two biggest ISPs are BT and
   Virgin, the owners of the wire, and they have less fiber than we have
   in the US.
   Creating the conditions for network competition is a hard problem with
   no easy answers.
   On 3/25/2011 11:48 PM, Joly MacFie wrote:

     I take your point, the separation was of a different order. But a
     separation, nonetheless. The motive is not so much different.

   I think we can all accept that "traditional telephone regulation" is
   rapidly losing its grip as the beast morphs. Now that applications
   outnumber networks new problems require new solutions.

   I've heard Allied Fiber's Hunter Newby argue convincingly that really
   it's about separating Level 0 - the real estate, the wires and the head
   end premises - from everything else, and facilitating sufficient open
   access to guarantee healthy competition in services.

   And yes, where there's a monopoly there will have to some price
   regulation. At least that's traditional.
   As we've seen in the UK, while it's not so much a stretch to impose
   even higher level unbundling on the telcos, when it comes to the cable
   industry it's going to be a very painful pulling of teeth.
   On Sat, Mar 26, 2011 at 2:01 AM, Richard Bennett
   <[2]richard at> wrote:

     The principle that kept telegraph and telephone apart wasn't a
     functional layering concept, it was a "technology silos" concept
     under which all communication networks were assumed to be
     indistinguishable from their one and only one application. If you
     read the Communications Act of 1934, you'll see this idea embodied
     in the titles of the act, each of which describes both a network and
     an application, as we understand the terms today. Wu wants to make
     law out of the OSI model, a very different enterprise than
     traditional telecom regulation.

   On 3/25/2011 10:27 PM, Joly MacFie wrote:

     aka the "separation principle" ( Tim Wu - the Master Switch)
     What surprised me is that when I put his point to Richard R.John at
     Columbia Big media event back in Nov
     <[3]>  - John totally agreed with it,
     citing the
     precedent of the telegraph companies being locked out of the
     business back in the day.
     On Fri, Mar 25, 2011 at 10:52 PM, George
     Bonser<[4]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
     data going over the network.  The phone company simply provided the
     network.  I still believe the biggest mistake we made was breaking
     the Bell System.  We should have let them be, regulated the crap out
     them, and then said "no, you can't get into the business of
     content".  They system should have been left as a regulated public

     To that end, I think the US would be much better off with fiber to
     home on a single distribution infrastructure.  That could be owned
     operated by the municipality (like the water system) or owned and
     operated by a corporation granted an exclusive right to service an


     (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


     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
     be kept out of providing content and kept in the business of
     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
     possibly with some layer 2 switching, but then allowed any
     entity to come in and offer layer 3 services.

     I don't.  What happens when the "government" then decides what
     is and is not allowed to go over their network?  If one had a site
     provided a view that the government didn't like, would they cut it
     I want the government very strictly limited in what they can and
     do and I want them to have to go to an outside entity for things
     lawful intercept because it is another check on their power.  A
     entity might insist that there is a proper warrant or subpoena while
     government might simply decide to snoop first, get the paperwork
     Keeping the network at arm's length from the government helps to
     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
     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.
     the network, you have people communicating back and forth and much
     that communications is private or expected to be private (say, a
     call or a secure financial transaction).  If a private entity screws
     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.
     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
     by a regulated utility that is explicitly prohibited from providing
     content, only provide access through the network.


     Richard Bennett

   Joly MacFie  218 565 9365 [5]Skype:punkcast
   WWWhatsup NYC - [6]
    [7] - [8]
    VP (Admin) - ISOC-NY - [9]

Richard Bennett


   2. mailto:richard at
   4. mailto:gbonser at
   5. Skype:punkcast

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