Thursday, January 12, 2006

Defending munifiber

Defending munifiber (or munipower) goes something like the case for net neutrality:
  • Network operators: it's our network, we do as we please. We have to defend our own services.
  • Internet service providers: it's not us, it's the customer who is using the service. Moreover, he/she already pays for it (ie the broadband bill).
I am somewhere in the middle. Only if true competition would guarantee the option of subscribing to an ISP that respects net neutrality, would I support the network operators' point of view.

Now for munifiber:
  • Opponents (normally cablecos and telcos): cities have no expertise and should leave the market to commercial enterprises.
  • Proponents (usually cities themselves, but Minneapolis is an exception): competition is insufficient, especially in rural areas. Broadband is a civil right, like roads and water pipes. Besides, munibroadband will spur economic growth and will socially benefit the population. Also, government institutions can use the network.
Again, I am somewhere in the middle. As a matter of principle I would like to leave it to commercial enterprises, but the pragmatic point of those in favor of munifiber is simply too strong.
The matter is somewhat complicated by the 'stupid network' view: operators should acknowledge this inescapable view, cheer cities' initiatives to pay for the upgrade and restrict themselves to the role of service providers. But that would take a major turn.

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