Broadband Communities

MAR-APR 2019

BROADBAND COMMUNITIES is the leading source of information on digital and broadband technologies for buildings and communities. Our editorial aims to accelerate the deployment of Fiber-To-The-Home and Fiber-To-The-Premises.

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BROADBAND POLICY 5 0 | B R O A D B A N D C O M M U N I T I E S | w w w. b r o a d b a n d c o m m u n i t i e s . c o m | M A R C H / A P R I L 2 0 1 9 Why Broadband Should Be a Utility Delivering great broadband to everyone in a community requires thinking about broadband in a new way. Some cities have already made that shift. By Susan Crawford / Harvard Law School F iber cities know the difference between publicly overseen networks, aimed at providing a utility service, and wholly private, "demand-driven" communications networks. ere is no single meaning of the word utility, but the concept is familiar to many people. e basic idea is that a utility is a service that 1) relies on a physical network of some kind and 2) is a basic input into both domestic and economic life. A utility is not a luxury. Utility services can be sold by private or public entities, but they are always subject to public obligations to reach everyone at a reasonable price, with a service meeting public quality standards. A utility-based approach would treat a last-mile fiber connection – likely provided on a wholesale basis – as essential physical infrastructure under a city's legal control that is required to reach everyone. e logic is that if a city controls when, how and for whom the basic network is built, and at what cost that wholesale facility is made available to private competitors who want to directly serve customers, all premises in the city could have access to modern essential infrastructure at a reasonable cost. A demand-driven approach, by contrast, would allow a private operator to wire only those areas that made sense under its business model. Services that start off as luxuries can become utilities as their centrality to life becomes clear – we've seen this with electricity, which was initially sold by private companies following a demand-driven model. Where investors saw the possibility of a stream of revenue that met their expectations, they would borrow or put up the initial money to wire businesses and homes with electricity. As a result, the electrification of America followed a consistent pattern: municipal buildings and businesses first, wealthy urban dwellers next, then poorer urban dwellers and, last of all, rural homes and farms. is was the demand-driven model in action. Now, after government intervention in the electricity marketplace and decades of treatment of electricity as a utility subject to public obligations, we take electricity for granted as a service that is available to every home and business at a reasonable cost. Most of the country follows the National Electrical Code, which requires every single-family dwelling to be connected to at least 100 amperes of electrical power from the local utility. is is a peak-load figure – the maximum current you can draw through your electrical system at one time – and it's the typical standard for modern usage. Houses are built for a peak electricity use so that everybody can plug in their devices and appliances and function in the modern world. LESSONS FROM ASIA Today, fiber optic internet access is available at a reasonable cost to 100 percent of residents in South Korea, Japan, Hong Kong and Singapore. China plans to have 100 million homes connected to fiber in short order. Sweden also has extraordinarily high fiber adoption rates. None of this happened by accident; none of these places used a demand-driven model. Cities in all of these places treat fiber access as a utility. As a result, as Owen Narita, a mid-20s employee of a small Tokyo travel startup, told me, he never thinks about uploading large files ("It's not a drama"), works easily from home, and if he ever wants to switch providers, he has

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