FutureWire - futurism and emerging technology

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Broadband Hissy Fit

One of the great emerging technology controversies over the next few years is likely to be over who should be providing broadband data access to the public. Municipalities would like to offer free or subsidized broadband access to increase business investment, encourage growth and close the digital divide. But telecoms and cable companies argue that cities and towns don't have the expertise to manage these networks, and that taxpayers will be left holding the bag (not to mention that city-run broadband would cut into telecoms' and cable companies' profits).

Telecoms and cable companies are turning to state legislatures to stop municipal broadband before it gains a foothold. So far, 13 states have passed legislation banning or severely restricting future municipal broadband projects. Despite this, Chicago and Philadelphia are forging ahead with their own broadband services, as are the communities of Lafayette, Louisiana and Utah's Great Salt Lake region, who are counting on broadband to help spur economic growth.

In the past, broadband has meant high-speed Internet service. But now, so much more can be done with broadband, such as VoIP, television, and mobile device connectivity. In fact, the next interesting battle may be between the telecoms and cable over the rights to operate pay TV services.

One has to wonder in all this controversy how the average consumer will fare. As potential broadband providers squabble, the US falls farther behind in broadband connectivity against nations that make broadband access a priority. We seem to be at a philosophical crossroads concerning broadband, and must decide whether it will be a public utility available to all, or a high-end novelty available only to those who fight to acquire it.

Source: CNet