Furthermore, the costs for a municipality to provide effective services -- especially wireless -- are insignificant when compared to that of embedded DSL and cable systems. Technology has advanced to a state where hundreds of square miles can now be served in only a matter of a few months and a few hundred thousand dollars.
Finally, the new wireless services being offered by many municipalities are not subsidized. In fact, they are profitable and provide a new revenue source to the municipality that could lead to lower taxes. This fact, among others, persuaded Kentucky Governor Ernie Fletcher to launch "ConnectKentucky" a creative initiative involving public/private partnerships that would ensure high-speed Internet access to every household in Kentucky by the end of 2007!
Disappointingly, the response from the carriers has been different than that of Governor Fletcher's. The carriers have chosen not to meet market demand, but instead to pay exorbitant amounts of money for local, state, and federal lobbyists to rail against state and municipal governments having the option of meeting the basic needs of their constituents. Some have convinced an ex-SBC employee and now Texas Congressman, Pete Sessions, to introduce legislation that would prohibit cities and towns across the country from entering what he calls the "telecom business." (It should be noted that Representative Sessions' wife is currently an SBC employee.)
This potential conflict of interest by Representative Sessions, the aggressive opposition by the carriers toward municipal broadband, and the fact that many residents of the U.S. continue to do without high-speed Internet access, has not gone unnoticed by others in our nation's capital. Senators McCain (AZ) and Lautenburg (NJ) are preparing legislation of their own. In part, a draft of their proposed Senate bill reads:
- "No State statute, regulation, or other State legal requirement may prohibit or have the effect of prohibiting any public provider from providing, to any person or any public or private entity, advanced telecommunications capability or any service that utilizes the advanced telecommunications capability provided by such provider."
The carriers and cable providers have had years to make broadband access a reality for everyone and have failed miserably in many cases. It's time for communities to take the matter seriously and intervene, if necessary, to get affordable access to everyone who wants it and/or needs it.