Fiber figments

Randy May gives a good summary of the case for the rule changes the FCC is likely to adopt next week, reducing the obligations of incumbent telephone companies to share their networks.

It’s a good lesson on the way most telecom policy advocates, of whatever ideological persuasion, see the world. They talk about “expensive new fiber lines” and “facilities used to provide broadband” as though the network were a collection of tinker toys, with companies deciding every year whether or not to snap in some new parts. Over the last few years, the Bell argument was that they needed incentive to "deploy broadband." Now it’s about "deploying fiber". Guess what? There’s plenty of fiber in the network, and there will be more, whatever the FCC decides.

Real companies, whether incumbents or new entrants, make rational business decisions based on market conditions. They made do stupid things, or things that work in the short-term but kill them over time, but they aren’t stupid. The FCC decision definitely matters. It will change the incentive landscape. But like most of these decisions, it’s being described in ways that are totally unrealistic. I actually believe Michael Powell at the FCC understands this. Right or wrong, he’s come to his viewpoint for the right reasons.

I need to sit down and write an article explaining what I mean.