As originally posted in Blandin Foundation eNews…
Perspective drives terminology!
If our broadband world were as simple as telephone services used to be, we would have broadband to all people and places. It would be relatively affordable. It would be world-class in capacity and reliability. That world was a regulated monopoly where business subsidized residential and urban subsidized rural.
But we now have a complicated playing field with a mix of providers and technologies, including public sector entities. Differing perspectives and values can drive very different decisions on broadband investment and deployment. In addition, the same strategy may have different names depending on who does it. Depending on where you sit, a strategy may be considered “smart” or “indefensible”.
- When public sector entities collaborate for better Internet access and pricing, they call it “demand aggregation.” A competitive private sector provider would be accused of “cherry picking.”
- When providers invest only in the areas that have the best potential returns, their “good business planning” is defined as “redlining.” Note that the redlined areas might be urban low-income neighborhoods or entire rural counties or regions.
Public officials expect that their public broadband investments will be well scrutinized. They outline clear goals and publish their business plan. Private sector providers would do well to make their network planning and business justification models more transparent. Public input into those plans, either advice or resources, would add significant value for the providers while helping the public entities meet their important broadband goals.