Should Government Interfere In Broadband Fight?

A decision made earlier this week by the Miami, Florida county commissioners must have sent shock waves all the way to the Dulles, Virginia headquarters of America Online.

The Miami-Dade County commissioners voted against requiring cable companies that provide high-speed Internet connections to share their lines with competitors, causing some industry observers to conclude that the number one service provider’s quest to keep cable and telephone companies from hoarding their broadband infrastructure is doomed.

On the other hand, the latest series of local votes on the issue is a definite boost for AT&T and other cable companies who strongly argue that it would be unfair for the government to force them to make their lines available to rivals.

Survival Without Broadband

The dilemma facing AOL and every other company that doesn’t hold vast broadband assets is that without high-speed Internet connections, they face extinction. That’s because analysts predict that broadband will be the catalyst that ultimately pushes e-commerce into the stratosphere.

Why?

Because it is a high-speed Internet connection that can instantly transform a slow, boring Web site into a fast-loading, multimedia presentation.

Additionally, broadband will make it easier for households to hook up simple networks connecting all of their PCs and computing devices — making communicating and buying online extremely easy. According to a new study by the Yankee Group, home networking will skyrocket to 10 million U.S. homes by 2003.

Creating A Monopoly

With these technical facts of life staring them in the face, it is easy to understand why AOL and other broadband-less players are screaming at the top of their lungs for the Federal Communication Commission to get involved.

They argue that if the government doesn’t step in and force cable and telephone companies to sell them access, it is in effect sanctioning a monopoly.

However, so far, the FCC is having no part of it. It contends that by interfering, it could discourage companies from investing in these services and thereby slow down its delivery to consumers.

Should Be Forced To Open Access

Now, I have to admit that observing this ruckus is at times like watching the kettle calling the pot black — especially when it seems that AOL is fighting hard to monopolize the instant messenger market.

Nonetheless, I agree with the conclusion that by not making access available, the handful of companies that control it can squeeze and drive their less fortunate competitors out of business.

That’s why I disagree with the FCC. I think it’s the role of government to step in before a potential problem with broadband becomes a full-blown disaster.

What do you think? Let’s talk about it.

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