The Electronic Frontier Foundation has published a new report calling for a "fiber for all" plan to combat the broadband access crisis in the United States. Government data and independent analysis show we are falling behind the rest of the developed world in this area, and "the U.S. is the only country that believes having no plan will solve this issue," writes Ernesto Falcon from the EFF. "We are the only country to completely abandon federal oversight of an uncompetitive, highly concentrated market that sells critical services to all people, yet we expect widely available, affordable, ultra-fast services. But if you live in a low-income neighborhood or in a rural market today, you know very well this is not working and the status quo is going to cement in your local broadband options to either one choice or no choice." From the report: Very small ISPs and local governments with limited budgets are at the frontline of deploying fiber to the home to fix these problems, but policymakers from the federal, state, and local level need to step up and lead. At least 19 states still have laws that prohibit local governments from deploying community broadband projects. Worst yet, both AT&T and Verizon are actively asking the FCC to make it even harder for small private ISPs to deploy fiber, so that the big incumbents can raise prices and suppress competition, a proposal EFF has urged the FCC to reject.
This is why we need to push our elected officials and regulators for a fiber-for-all-people plan to ensure everyone can obtain the next generation of broadband access. Otherwise, the next generation of applications and services won't be usable in most of the United States. They will be built instead for markets with better, faster, cheaper, and more accessible broadband. This dire outcome was the central thesis to a recently published book by Professor Susan Crawford (appropriately named Fiber) and EFF agrees with its findings. If American policymakers do not remedy the failings in the US market and actively pursue ways to drive fiber deployment with the goal of universal coverage, then a staggering number of Americans will miss out on the latest innovations that will occur on the Internet because it will be inaccessible or too expensive. As a result, we will see a worsening of the digital divide as advances in virtual reality, cloud computing, gaming, education, and things we have not invented yet are going to carry a monopoly price tag for a majority of us -- or just not be accessible here. This does not have to be so, but it requires federal, state, and local governments to get to work on policies that promote fiber infrastructure to all people. Most of the talk lately has been about 5G networks, but the less-spoken truth about these networks is that they need dense fiber networks to make them work. "One estimate on the amount of fiber investment that needs to occur is as much as $150 billion -- including fiber to the home deployments -- in the near future, and we are far below that level of commitment to fiber," the report says.
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