Is Low-Cost, High-Speed Internet an Economic Right?

This opinion piece is misguided because he didn’t fully read and appreciate the analysis by the City of San Francisco. Broadband Internet it not a utility; nor should it be considered one. Broadband Internet Service can be sold in a competitive market allowing for choice and price competition to consumers. A utility would create a regulated service with little choice and ever-increasing prices. Also, “Gigabit” bandwidth is not a necessity at the moment. Bandwidth at or above the current FCC definition is adequate for almost all of the population, and bandwidth at 4 times the definition would work for 99% of the population.

I agree with many of the premises the author claims as to the benefits of broadband service, but I draw the line that it needs to be under control and subsidized by the government. The City makes a good case for building and operating an open-access fiber infrastructure through a public-private partnership which I agree. The result will be the same but how we get there will be less risky for taxpayers and benefit residents of the city more. 


What if I told you that 100,000 San Franciscans, including thousands of public school students, do not have electricity or water at home? I imagine many of you would be appalled and call for our government to step in and help. Now, substitute the Internet for water and electricity. Would you still be upset? According to the latest analysis from the city of San Francisco, more than a 100,000 residents in the land of Twitter and Salesforce, do not have access to the Internet at home. Fifty thousand more have sluggish dial-up speeds.

How is this possible? And who is responsible for fixing the situation?

Almost two years ago, CivicMakers began organizing community events on how we close the digital divide and bring a public broadband network to San Francisco. We enlisted the smartest thinkers from the public and private sector, including CPUC Commissioner Catherine Sandoval, Supervisor Mark Farrell, San Francisco CIO Miguel A Gamiño Jr., leaders from Mozilla, the Startup Policy Lab, EFF, Internet Archive and Zero Divide. We asked our elected leaders to explore an issue that has largely been neglected by City Hall since the Google free Wi-Fi effort fizzled out nearly a decade ago.

President Obama has said, “high-speed broadband is not a luxury. … It’s a necessity.” Broadband Internet service “has steadily shifted from an optional amenity to a core utility” and is now “taking its place alongside water, sewer, and electricity as essential infrastructure for communities,” according to the White House. This is about equity and competing in the 21st century.

California is the birthplace of the Internet, yet we’re falling behind nationally and globally.

A teacher recently shared a story with with me about how she has to dumb down the homework she gives her students because she isn’t sure they will be able to download it at home. This is reality for nearly 9,000 San Francisco public school students. How are our children to succeed if they cannot do their homework at home?

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About Mark Milliman

Mark Milliman is a Principal Consultant at Inphotonics Research driving the adoption and assisting local governments to plan, build, operate, and lease access open-access municipal broadband networks. Additionally, he works with entrepreneurs and venture capitalists to increase the value of their intellectual capital through the creation of strategic product plans and execution of innovative marketing strategies. With more than 22 years of experience in the telecommunications industry that began at AT&T Bell Laboratories, Mark has built fiber, cable, and wireless networks around the world to deliver voice, video, and data services. His thorough knowledge of all aspects of service delivery from content creation to the design, operation, and management of the network is utilized by carriers and equipment manufacturers. Mark conceived and developed one of the industry's first multi-service provisioning platform and is multiple patent holder. He is active in the IEEE as a senior member. Mark received his B.S. in Electrical Engineering from Iowa State University and M.S. in Electrical Engineering from Carnegie Mellon University.
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