Private/Public Partnerships in Broadband

Forbes’ “Bring on the Broadband with Private/Public Partnerships” discusses the nation’s changing interactions with broadband services and how the market is readjusting to accommodate customers’ new needs. I confess a certain bewilderment that a joint venture between municipal governments and private internet service providers has taken this long to come to fruition. For some time I have been reading about some small towns that, after deciding the services rendered by ISPs were not worth the relative cost, established their own public internet providers; in these success stories, the individual towns were able to use their citizens’ taxes to create infrastructures with much greater speeds, making internet access easy for whole population centers. In the wake of this, I would have thought that ISPs would be trying to prevent such action through “joint venture” and “compromise”.

I can see the value in working with cities to use their pre-existing fiber-optic networks to augment the capacities of internet services, especially where doing so would cut back on the cost to the private companies to expand their networks. However, this move still seems rather uninspired and even a bit shortsighted. In an age where Finland gets an average broadband speed of 22Mbps for an average of about $3.00 per 1Mbps, the proposed 5Mbps for a $300 installation fee and $70/month charge that Google has put forward for Kansas City can hardly be considered advancement.

Personally, I am much more interested in efficiency over competition. I can’t speak for the average consumer, but I can say that as a nation, we have a great deal of progress to make in this information age to catch up with the rest of the world; we could benefit not so much from collaboration between companies and governments as outright mergers of the two. (Unprecedented, perhaps, but so are most new and interesting things.) Empires these days seem to be powered by data; it behooves us as a country to look nationally into the necessity of building our networks for our own citizens, creating a stable infrastructure for the nation, rather than simply expecting ISP companies to do the same.