Competition has a different meaning in the US

Broadband competition has two entirely different meanings depending on where you reside – inside or outside of United States.

For rest of the planet, competition means opening up the existing networks, forcing the incumbents to share the last mile resources with the upstarts, so to speak. In the US, it means creating a brand new network, something that has been a pet project of suddenly competition-happy FCC Chairman Kevin Martin.

Martin (version 2.0) has been pushing for the open networks in the 700 MHz band of wireless spectrum that is going to be available soon, once the television companies switch from analog broadcasts to digital broadcasts.

His attempts, twisted at best, are particularly grating because he helped create the duopoly that is pushing the Google Block (Verizon’s words, not mine) to lobby for open access on this new network. Not that the Google Block doesn’t have its own (and not consumer’s) vested interests behind their bid.

Many have forgotten that it was during Martin’s incumbent-accommodating tenure that line sharing or “international” style competition was sent the way of the dodo in the US. Many will point that the Telecom Act of 1996 was crap to begin with, and they would be right but it can’t distract from the fact that it was over-zealous regulators, lobbyists and dim-wits in Washington DC who mucked it up in the first place.

We had a mess then, and we have a mess now. Anyway if the competiton-enforcing policies were put in place to begin with, we wouldn’t be going through the current head-spins. It would have actually forced change, like it has in rest of the planet.

France, UK, Germany and several other countries have seen broadband progress (higher speeds, lower prices and increased adoption) mostly because of competition that forced the incumbents to get off their butt.

Instead of taking this more common sense approach, in the US, we have seen a strategy called the “politics of fear” being effectively used (with FCC doing nothing) to effectively choke the competition. (And no, this is not just telecom networks, but also cable networks.)

Instead we have a situation where a new network is going to be built (if the incumbents allow it), which in turn means billions of dollars spent on building a new infrastructure, and no one exactly clear about when the consumers are going to see the benefits.

But Chairman Martin has never cared about the people who sign his paycheck: The American People.