Will USF Reform Include Muni Networks?
Notably, Genachowski refers to "public-private partnerships" that involve a full range of service providers -- wireline, fixed wireless, satellite and mobile -- but doesn't specify what kind of public entities might be involved.
Could he be opening the door to involvement of local governments, namely counties and municipalities, in USF-funded broadband networks?
Craig Settles hopes so. The CEO of broadband consultancy Successful.com, a consultant and an strong advocate of local control of broadband networks, Settles believes that competition is the answer to available and affordable broadband, and local control is the answer to competition.
Municipal networks are anathema to service providers as unneeded competition and unwarranted interference, but there's a reason they haven't gone away, despite some high-profile failures. There are too many reports of USF dollars going into the pocket of a local telco that earns double-digit profits -- and anger over those accounts was exacerbated by last summer's revelations by The Washington Post that AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) and Verizon Wireless were raking in millions in USF money for building wireless networks they were probably going to build anyway.
So far the current FCC's record on muni networks is somewhat mixed, Settles points out. The National Broadband Plan makes clear mention of them, and says states should rescind existing laws against them. But the $300 million Mobility Fund announced last fall appears to cut them out of the action in favor of wireless network operators.
We'll have to wait until tomorrow to see which way the FCC goes on this one.
— Carol Wilson, Chief Editor, Events, Light Reading