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78 | BROADBAND COMMUNITIES | www.broadbandcommunities.com | JULY 2015 OPINION Connecting Cambridge Why doesn't Cambridge, Mass., have a next-generation network? By Saul Tannenbaum / Cambridge Broadband Task Force I t's a strange experience to go to the 2015 BroadBand Communities Summit and announce that you are a member of the Cambridge Broadband Task Force. After people make sure you meant that Cambridge, they're surprised that Cambridge doesn't already have a next-generation network. Is it local government interference? Robert Metcalfe, the co-inventor of Ethernet – technology at the foundation of all high-speed computer networks – reminds you that you live in the city in which the Internet was invented and asks what's taking you so long. Of a libertarian bent, he's sure it must be government interference. No, you explain, anyone who might want to invest in a better Cambridge network has been invited in, and all have declined. He's still not entirely convinced. You point to Kendall Square, an area he knows well in his role as an MIT trustee, and suggest that if Cambridge were as anticorporate as he imagines, it wouldn't have what many have called the most innovative square mile on the planet. Is it state government interference? Representatives of small towns seek you out to understand what the barriers have been, certain that it must be state legislation preventing you from moving ahead. Unlike 19 other states, Massachusetts has no laws keeping a municipality from investing in high-speed networks. Is it money, they ask? If so, there are interesting public-private partnerships available. Creative fnancial engineering is also possible to bring this within reach. No. Cambridge has had an AAA bond rating for 16 years and builds schools without state aid, all fueled by a thriving commercial tax base. IT'S NATIONWIDE MARKET FAILURE Te United States is sufering from nationwide failure of the telecommunications marketplace. Because there is no competition, incumbent telecommunications companies collect ever- increasing subscriber fees without investing in higher-speed networks. Tis position, formerly voiced only by academics and activists, has now become a cornerstone of government policy. President Barack Obama, speaking in Cedar Falls, Iowa, voiced this, as has Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler. Along with acknowledging a market failure, both Obama and Wheeler urged the same solution: community networks. It may be no surprise that former community organizer Obama called for community networks as a solution, but Wheeler, formerly an industry representative for the telecommunications companies, certainly raised eyebrows when he told the BroadBand C ommunities Summit that "[w]hen commercial There's no local or state interference. The city has plenty of money. The absence of a next-generation network in Cambridge must result from market failure.