Reed Hundt speaks out on broadband policy

Former FCC Chairman on the need for a cohesive broadband policy. Yes, we need one, and preferably one that provides incentive to roll out rural markets.

Japan is often cited as a paragon of progressive broadband policy. Once upon a time – unfortunately, when I was living there – this was not so. Japan was a broadband backwater. I paid my ISP (Global Online) about $300 per year for dial-up and then paid NTT tariffs every three minutes. I had every incentive *not* to use the Internet at home.

Fortunately things changed. Commentary in Foreign Affairs and Infoworld provides some insight on this subject. Infoworld notes:

Unlike in the U.S., Japan’s two incumbents are required to share their last-mile copper loops, their fiber loops and their Internet backbone with competitors, Ebihara said. Since 2003, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission has ended most sharing requirements for incumbents like AT&T, arguing that providers should build their own networks.

This isn’t to say NTT is a progressive entity that opened up its network out of the goodness of its heart. It fought this tooth and nail, but what’s now MIC forced them to open up. Softbank took full advantage and used to hand out broadband modems, literally on street corners. As a foreign business traveler I could have walked away with one. Broadband adoption exploded as both NTT East and West followed suit with high speed service at ~$20/month. Yes, the margins in the broadband business are awful, but consumers have reaped the benefits.

One can validly argue that comparing Japan and Korea, which are both densely populated, highly urbanized nations, with the US and its amber waves of grain is an apples-to-oranges comparison. True enough. With that said, sound policy is sound policy. Rural broadband can be solved wirelessly.