On “Broadband is not a Utility”

I continue to hear stuff like “Broadband is not a utility” and “broadband is a luxury” all of which is supposed to lead to the conclusion that we should all stand back and let the the incumbent duopoly do whatever they want. That has always seemed like a stunningly short-sighted and unimaginative position to me. Happily Glenn Fleishman over at Publicola in Seattle (where their new mayor is committed to a publicly owned FTTH project) has dug up the perfect rejoinder to such foolishness. Glenn analyzes this at length and his dissection is worth the read. But for our purposes the raw quote from the Richmond, Virginia’s 1905 Times-Dispatch newspaper will suffice:

“Unless we adopt the principles of socialism, It can hardly be contended that It is the province of government, either state or municipal, to undertake the manufacture or supply of the ordinary subjects of trade and commerce, or to impose burdens upon the whole community for the supposed benefit of a few….

“The ownership and operation of municipal light plants stands upon a different basis from that of the ownership of water works, with which it is so often compared. Water is a necessity to the health and life of every individual member of a community…It must be supplied in order to preserve the public health, whether it can be done profitably or not, and must be furnished, not to a few individuals, but to every individual.

“Electric lights are different. Electricity is not in any sense a necessity, and under no conditions is it universally used by the people of a community. It is but a luxury enjoyed by a small proportion of the members of any municipality, and yet if the plant be owned and operated by the city, the burden of such ownership and operation must be borne by all the people through taxation.

“Now, electric light is not a necessity for every member of the community. It Is not the business of any one to see that I use electricity, or gas, or oil in my house, or even that I use any form of artificial light at all.”

Sound familiar? A century more or less makes little difference in the way some folks think…though the passage of time does change what they are wrong about.

Fleishman is writing in support of a fiber to the home network in Seattle but it is worth noting that he is more familiar as one of the net’s go-to guys on wifi and related wireless technologies — and has been a great advocate of those technologies. But even he says that fiber is the end-game for fixed locations.

2 thoughts on “On “Broadband is not a Utility””

  1. John: Simple question (I hope) if I hook up my residence to LUS Fiber, say with 5 Mbs package, does that mean to other LUS residental customers in Lafayette on LUS fiber, we can connect over the internet at 100 Mbps? I remember you saying that LUS customers would automatically have 100 Mbps intercity. Or something like that? What's deal again?

  2. Anon,

    The cheapest level of LUS internet is actually 10 Mbps…that's what you get to the internet. All subscribers get 100 on the intranet,–that is to other LUS subscribers. Regardless of what "speed" to the outside internet they buy.

    Pretty neat, I was just looking at some video broadcasting software that might work on the intranet…