The incomparable Diane Rehm show on WAMU recently tackled the network neutrality ruling [listen to it there]. Guests included Cecilia Kang, Susan Crawford, and Jeffrey Eisenach from the American Enterprise Institute, a think tank famous for promoting what is best for massive, politically influencial firms. Jeff and I both took part in a debate about municipal networks a few years ago – watch here.
It is a good panel with numerous perspectives and back and forth. But I was surprised to hear Eisenach confirming a main argument Susan, myself, and many others have been making: that copper is insufficient. People like Eisenach are forever over-estimating what DSL can do, claiming that we don’t need massive fiber investment.
But the conversation turns to Europe about 34 minutes into the interview and in explaining why he thinks Europe has fallen behind the U.S., he says “They are reliant on these 20th century copper networks which have real limits on the amount of speed that they can deliver.”
Now, he was quoting in the previous paragraph, so he may claim that his recognition of copper limits was nothing more than a quote to someone else – but he quoted it quite approvingly. And most of us in the United States are stuck with that same technology as our only competitor to the local cable monopoly.
Make no mistake. We do need fiber networks, as even industry concedes in more and more cases – see Cox suddenly investing in FTTH – but we also need accountability. Just convincing big, unaccountable global corporations to invest in fiber won’t improve our local economies as much as we need.