Wholesale/transport services

Poll: RBOCs Fuel 'Broadband Gap'

According to the latest Light Reading poll, many readers blame the RBOCs for the sorry state of broadband penetration in the U.S. (See The Broadband Gap.)

The poll’s first and most important question asks who or what is responsible for that “broadband gap." Of the more than 100 people who responded, 28 percent say the RBOCs are at fault, while 17 percent say the federal government is at fault, and 16 percent point at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Which, come to think of it, is also the federal government.

A sizable group of the poll takers are sympathetic to the idea that regulation, not competitive (or anti-competitive) positioning, is the main reason the RBOCs aren’t moving faster on broadband deployment (see Supremes Sing Cable's Praises). Nearly 70 percent of the respondents say that less regulation of incumbent carriers would improve the U.S. standing on broadband.

But a majority of poll takers (61 percent) believe that publicly run, taxpayer-funded municipal networks would go a long way to advance broadband in the U.S. (see Coalition Calls for Community Broadband). Publicly run networks are increasingly being seen as a competitive threat by the RBOCs, which are accustomed to ownership and control of the broadband networks in their service areas.

A very visible example is the Utah Telecommunication Open Infrastructure Agency (UTOPIA) municipal network in Utah (see Utopia Launches Phase I). The local RBOC, Qwest Communications International Inc. (NYSE: Q), has worked within the state’s legislature to slow the network’s progress, and has now filed a suit in federal court against UTOPIA and the city of Riverton over what the RBOC calls “anticompetitive” actions.

Meanwhile, governments in Asia, where far greater per capita penetration has been achieved, have been aggressive in spurring growth of broadband networks.

Another interesting note: 54 percent of the poll's respondents say broadband penetration is “fundamental to socio-economic development.” But 38 percent downplay broadband a bit, saying the issue is “important but not critical.”

— Mark Sullivan, Reporter, Light Reading

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