News

Fiber Rings Fit Deregulatory Hands

8/13/2012 12:01 AM Eastern

Google’s first lesson for building affordable
1-Gigabit-per-second fiber networks with
private capital is crystal clear: If government
wants private companies to build ultra highspeed
networks, it should start by waiving
regulations, fees, and bureaucracy.

For three years now, the Obama Administration
and the Federal Communications
Commission have been pushing for national
broadband connectivity as a way to strengthen
our economy, spur innovation, and create new
jobs across the country. They know that America
requires more private investment to achieve their vision.
But, despite their good intentions, their policies haven’t encouraged
substantial private investment in communications
infrastructure. That’s why the launch of Google Fiber is so
critical to policymakers who are seeking to promote investment
in next-generation networks.

The Google Fiber deployment offers policymakers a rare
opportunity to examine policies that successfully spurred
new investment in America’s broadband infrastructure.
Google’s intent was to “learn how to bring faster and better
broadband access to more people.” Over the two years
it planned, developed and built its ultra high-speed fiber
network, Google learned a number of valuable lessons for
broadband deployment — lessons that policymakers can apply
across America to meet our national broadband goals.

To my surprise, however, the policy response to the
Google Fiber launch has been tepid. After reviewing Google’s
deployment plans, I expected to hear the usual chorus of
Rage Against the ISP from Public Knowledge, Free Press and
others from the left-of-center “public-interest” community
(PIC) who seek regulation of the Internet as a public utility.
Instead, they responded to the launch with deafening
silence.

Maybe they were stunned into silence. Google’s
deployment is a real-world rejection of the publicinterest
community’s regulatory agenda more
powerful than any hypothetical. Google is building
fiber in Kansas City because its officials were
willing to waive regulatory barriers to entry that
have discouraged broadband deployments in
other cities. Google’s first lesson for building affordable,
1-Gbps fiber networks with private capital
is crystal clear: If government wants private
companies to build ultra high-speed networks, it should start
by waiving regulations, fees and bureaucracy.

That’s the policy template that worked for the residents
of Kansas City. It could work for the rest of America, too, but
only if all broadband providers receive the same treatment.
When private companies compete on a level playing field,
consumers always win. When government regulations mandate
a particular business model or favor a particular competitor,
bureaucracy is the only winner — everyone else loses.

Maybe the silence of public-interest advocates indicates
they’ve had a change of heart. Although the PIC has vehemently
opposed the efforts of other broadband providers to eliminate
similar regulatory barriers in the past, perhaps the success
of Google Fiber has persuaded them that deregulatory policies
fairly applied to all competitors are essential to meeting
our nation’s shared goal of national broadband connectivity.


Fred Campbell is director of the Communications Liberty
and Innovation Project of the Competitive Enterprise
Institute and former FCC Wireless Bureau chief.
September