Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Broadband, narrow minds

Proving that Senator Ted Stevens isn't alone in having some strange views on what the internet is, the European Commission seems to have some strange views on what it shouldn't be. The Commission has determined that the Appingedam muni-FTTH project in the Netherlands constitutes state aid. I am both amused and depressed by the determination that, simply because the town is served by both DSL and cable there is no case for a third technology - as if to say who could ever want/need more than 12Mbps DSL for EUR74.95? Never mind that the Dutch DSL market is getting more, not less, concentrated. Any broadband is good enough, that's the takeaway.

However, implicit in projects like Appingedam, in my experience, is the message that the market has failed to deliver a level of connectivity which the local government/community considers adequate for its development agenda (notice that Appingedam calls itself "the Digital City"). Maybe the local government/community will ultimately be proven wrong, but in the meantime isn't it being deprived of a fair degree of control over its destiny? Can local governments so constrained in turn sue the Commission for the loss of the economic gains they hoped to make via the project?

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