Policy In-Depth: Debate over Muni Broadband Competing With Private Sector

On June 1, the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation held an oxford-style debate over the proposition: "Governments should neither subsidize nor operate broadband networks to compete with commercial ones."  

Jim Baller and I spoke against the proposition while Rob Atkinson and Jeff Eisenach defended it during the 2 hour, 15 minute session.  I was unable to be in DC and thus participated by the magic of modern telecommunications.  

This is a long but valuable and unique discussion.  We left talking points behind, actually responded to the points raised by the other side, and presented both sides of this debate in a reasonable manner.  In short, this is exactly the kind of discussion we would elected officials to consider before legislating on the matter.  But it very rarely happens -- nothing even remotely close to it occured in North Carolina when Time Warner Cable pushed its bill through the Legislature to enact a de facto ban on muni networks in the state.

You can watch it here.


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Interesting discussion.  I find the anti-government/libertarian argument disingeneous.  With one side of the mouth, govt. is inefficient and ineffective.  With the other side, government entry into the market will put the private sector out of business.  Which is it?  And why is it that our social contract is to gaurantee profit to the private sector vs. provide essential services to citizens?  Also, an economic PhD who doesn't understand the difference between general obligation bonds and revenue bonds is a bit sad.  Finally, seems like the logic taken to  absurdum (beside that all roads are going to be built with private sector financing - which is obviously false and beyond silly) means we should close down all state universities, water treatment plants, damns, public power, airports, public hospitals, seaports, etc. and make laws such that it's illegal for the public sector to participate (remember, the public sector is incompetent.)  If we did this I suspect those PhD degrees may not have been awarded to industry sock puppets as the private sector would never have allowed that to happen ;)