On April 1, 2003, I gave a keynote address at the Spring VON conference in San Jose. I opened with some misdirection about a fiber project, implying it was near my home in the US. The project, which delivered 100/100 Mbps fiber to the home for $24/month, in 1999-2000(!), was real enough. But it was in Ulmea Sweden. Even at that time, I had been talking for several years about the need for either: user control of first mile fiber or multiple competitors gaining open access to dark fiber in the first mile.
But whenever I used the term "structural separation" in the presence of US policy wonks, I was put down with comments like "Be serious. That could never happen in the US." Indeed, while the idea is openly discussed in international circles, in the US, only fringe people mention structural separation. The friendliest comment was from a communications lawyer acquaintance who advised me to avoid the words 'structural separation' if I wanted anyone to take me seriously.
So I downplayed those specific words but continued to advocate open access to dark fiber.
Good News! The words 'structural separation' may no longer be verboten in the US.
While the US Broadband Plan avoids mention of any kind of structural reform, the topic is finally showing up in mainstream US discussions. Harold Feld (Public Knowledge) directly mentions structural separation in his comments on the plan. Esme Vos has slightly different views but is also "appalled that structural separation is not part of the Plan." And when Paul Budde (admittedly an Australian) opened the topic, he prompted a vigorous discussion from Richard Bennett in his comments section.
A Long Way to Go
The US has a long way to go and the US Broadband Plan is not bold enough to get us there, but at least it is now possible to discuss a major issue in public in the US. Let's be thankful for any step forward.
eComm Panel Discussion on the US Broadband Plan
At the Emerging Communications Conference in San Francisco next month, I'm organizing a panel discussion on the US Broadband Plan. Independent of my personal views, I've tried to get panelists with as diverse a set of views as possible. Controversy always makes for a more interesting, and more informative, session.