I'm attending an FCC workshop on 'The Open Internet" which means Network Neutrality. I am very much in favor of open access to the Internet. However, by settling for network neutrality rules, we won't solve the real problem, which is a lack of competing ISPs. If we don't address this, we'll insure the US falls further and further behind other countries. Consider:
In the US, we claim to be supporting facilities-based competition. This means the rights-of-way are open to multiple competitors and you expect to see competing networks built from the ground up. I call this open access at layer zero. Unfortunately, this approach hasn't worked in the US. Most locations have only one or two access networks (the phone company-cable company duopoly).
The reason is fairly easy to understand:
Building a new set of facilities represented a large fixed cost. This investment must be paid back and typically only larger players have enough revenue to be able to make the interest payments. If you only capture 10% market share, you can't payback the investment. As a result, facilities-based competition usually results in 2-3 competitors, at most.
Note that in Korea, facilities-based competition is part of a fairly complex history of government and private network evolution. Hong Kong also has facilities-based competition, most notably by Hong Kong Broadband Networks Ltd. But that's one fiber over-builder in a market that has open access to copper (i.e. layer 1 access) and many, many DSL providers. Facilities-based competition is a great idea, but by itself it doesn't work.
The ideal solution, at least for metropolitan population densities should be clear from this diagram:
The horizontal axis shows years of useful life. Notice that dark fiber is expensive to install but has a useful life of decades. But the equipment you use to light up the fiber will be functionally obsolete in 30 months just due to Moore's Law.
So what happened in Stockholm? In 1994, Stockholm chartered a company, Stokab AB, to lay dark fiber and offer it to all comers. Throughout the 90s, Stokab only offered dark fiber. The result is many, many ISPs and corporate customers who lease fiber for diverse purposes. A bigger result, is one of the lowest costs for some of the best Internet access of any city in the world.
What the US really needs
We need open access to bare copper and dark fiber from a utility that is regulated and is structurally separate from companies who provide telephony, TV or ISP services.
Rather than talk about network neutrality, we should be talking about structural separation, or at a minimum, functional separation with common carriage requirements. That would be a big change and is probably politically impossible, but that's the only way to get ISP competition and ISP competition is the only approach that will get us world class broadband.