New at Broadband Bill

Reason’s Steven Titch wades into the proposed “Communications, Consumer’s Choice, and Broadband Deployment Act of 2006” and finds:

The sweeping draft bill includes all the right telecom policy buzzwordsââ?¬â??”net neutrality, ” “video franchising,” “universal service,” “municipal broadband”ââ?¬â??along with the “war on terrorism” and “protecting children” thrown in for good measure. But the bill, co-sponsored by Senate Commerce Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) and Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) does little more than extend the current costly, unproductive and largely unworkable telecommunications regulatory regime into the rapidly evolving field of broadband services.

Full column here. At, Andy Glass says “U.S. government policies and private corporate decisionmaking have fallen well behind the technological curve. We are paying a stiff social, economic and cultural price for our collective folly.”

The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) reports that the United States has fallen to 16th place among the nations of the world in broadband usage and continues to plummet. In terms of costs to consumers and the quality of services available to them, the wealthiest country on the planet ranks as a stagnant online backwater compared to the likes of South Korea, Japan, Singapore, Sweden and even Slovenia. In the 1990s, the “Baby Bell” regional telephone companies persuaded Congress to enact sweeping deregulation. In return, they said, they would utilize their newfound freedom (and profits) to roll out exciting new services, including high-speed fiber-optic lines, so-called universal fat pipes, directly into tens of millions of U.S. homes. In fact, however, capital expenditures fell from 24 percent of the Bells’ total expenses in the early 1980s to merely 14 percent of expenses in 2004. Rather than deploying fiber-optic services (FiOS) into homes, they spent the money to fund technologically obsolete digital-subscriber lines (DSL) while trying to fend off the inevitable shift of long-distance services to a cheap (or even free) Internet telephone platform, known as VoIP, or voice over Internet protocol.

Full column here. Reason’s telecom research and commentary here.