The growth of municipal broadband networks

Joly MacFie joly at
Sat Mar 26 16:07:11 CDT 2011

Again excellent points. And I agree, in the current UK model there appears
very little opportunity for independent ISPs to offer any significantly
improved service over the incumbent's own, and thereby grab market share.
It's all a matter of what else one can package with it - effectively the
separation principle anyway.

> Creating the conditions for network competition is a hard problem with no
easy answers.

Where there's a will there's a way. The big question, to some extent is, is
there the will?

One doesn't miss one's water etc. I was cheered to see in the recent
Canadian usage pricing fracas, Marc Garneau handing out buttons saying "My
Internet Shouldn't Suck"[1], and also to see Susan Crawford urging students
to take to the streets over the issue [2] before it's too late. But it's
going to take the equivalent of 10 Tahrir Squares to overcome the incumbent
clout and establishment inertia.

Meanwhile we are seeing widening pre-emptive strikes like N. Carolina. the
incumbents ride roughshod over everyone stating words to the effect - if we
can't gouge we won't build..

There surely still have to be answers, however tough - and some kind of
separation would seem to be an inescapable component.

I am no techie, but alternatively I imagine what could be practically
discussed is how much new technologies like cheap plastic fiber driving
little wi-fi chips, mesh etc, could give those communities that haven't
already been legislated out of the game an opportunity to economically and
successfully build their own connectivity. [3]


[2] <>
[3] I am in the process of organizing a panel to discuss same at the INET NY
on Jun 14, expressions of interest welcome
offlist<joly at>

On Sat, Mar 26, 2011 at 4:28 PM, Richard Bennett <richard at>wrote:

>  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.
> RB
> 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.
>  j
> On Sat, Mar 26, 2011 at 2:01 AM, Richard Bennett <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 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.
>>>  j
>>> 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.
>> --
>>   Richard Bennett
> --
> ---------------------------------------------------------------
> Joly MacFie  218 565 9365 Skype:punkcast
> WWWhatsup NYC -
> -
>  VP (Admin) - ISOC-NY -
> --------------------------------------------------------------
> -
> --
> Richard Bennett

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

More information about the NANOG mailing list