A classic debate over the role of government looms in the issue of providing broadband internet access to all -- the subject of a new Metro government task force. At-large council member David Briley, who is spearheading the drive for wider access, sees public spending on a municipal fiber optic network that covers the entire city as a worthwhile investment in Nashville's future. Universal access is a worthy goal, although it's hard to see why Briley's emphasis wouldn't be on wireless. (I say that realizing that Briley is talking about a broader telecommunications concept than just internet/web access.)
Whether fiber or wireless, big telecom hates the idea. A Tennessean story
earlier this week quoted Stacey Briggs of the Tennessee Cable Telecommunications Association offering up the party line:
"Why [would the city] need to provide services that already exist? When government competes against business, that's not pro-business. For a robust city like Nashville, it sends the wrong message."
Before you swallow that whole, read this Slate piece
pointing to the benefits of municipal wireless, and to the serious drawbacks of leaving it entirely to the private sector. As the writer points out, the U.S. has fallen to 16th in the percentage of citizens with access to broadband, trailing such countries as South Korea, Canada, Israel, and Japan.
When Ms. Briggs of the TCTA says these services "already exist," she conveniently neglects to mention how many households can actually afford expensive broadband service. As a matter of economic development and civic progress, the issue is actual access, not high-cost availability.