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Benkler Analyzes Broadband in Stimulus Bills

Yochai Benkler has done a close reading of the broadband portions of both House and Senate stimulus bills. Nice work.

To summarize Yochai’s summary:

House: $6 Billion, split between Commerce and Agriculture Depts., requires adherence to FCC’s Four Internet Principles (the Martin FCC Version).

Senate: $9 Billion, via Commerce Department’s NTIA, requires less specific “interconnection and nondiscrimination.”

How much broadband can a Billion buy? My own rule of thumb; a million homes passed with fiber, or 500,000 homes connected. But if these billions are treated as *stimulus* perhaps the funds could be used a lot more effectively, e.g., to spur or shame incumbents, to remove specific barriers (e.g., to municipal networks), to develop, monitor or deploy key technologies rather than entire infrastructures, etc.

Benkler continues: the House bill also explicitly defines Advanced Broadband (at least 45 Mbit/s down and 15(!) up). and sets up the NTIA to build technical capabilities to study and benchmark broadband availability and performance.

He directly addresses the suspicion of more than a few Netheads that these Billion$ are giveaways to incumbents, saying,

. . . both the House and Senate bills clearly tie the funding to core goals intended to enhance distributed innovation and open participation, uncontrolled by the incumbents, and to begin to reintroduce the idea that competition from new entrants is important and requires some version of open access and interconnection regulation is a breath of fresh air.

However, Benkler reminds us, these are yet bills not laws, the sausage machine is still a-grinding, and we DO need to monitor carefully what’s in the mix.

By David Isenberg, Principal Prosultant(sm), isen.com, LLC

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