The growth of municipal broadband networks
richard at bennett.com
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
<richard at bennett.com> 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
<http://isoc-ny.org/p2/?p=1563> - John totally agreed with it,
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<gbonser at seven.com> 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
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.
Joly MacFie 218 565 9365 Skype:punkcast
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2. mailto:richard at bennett.com
4. mailto:gbonser at seven.com
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