Broadband access to the remote parts of the nation, including New Hampshire, have been a topic of much debate over the years, so whenever major service providers of internet or wireless services start moving the chess pieces around the curious take notice.
The most recent such move is the purchase of T-Mobile by AT&T. (Would that make them AT&T&T?) The debate is on whether or not this is good for broadband. Potential competitors say no, obviously, but most almost everyone else seems to think yes.
T-Mobile seems not to object, which under the application of letting "grown-ups do whatever they like as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else," should be good enough for most of us.
AT&T has promised to expand 4G service into remote rural areas sooner. We have some of those remote areas here in New Hampshire.
Broadband really is the modern highway of commerce. It brings growth opportunity and stimulates small business start ups and expansion everywhere it goes, even places less accessible by other means. It has become a way to create or add jobs, and modern business now relies on it.
Expansion of any infrastructure, paid for by private business, is preferable to the taxpayer funded kind; it also creates real jobs supported by consumers using a product they want or need.
And wouldn’t you know, there just happens to be a federal goal to get Broadband to most of the country (98% of all Americans within a few years). The government’s participation to date, predictably, has been of little or no help. (See Heritage.org here and here and here for starters.) So why not allow a private enterprise to accomplish some or most of that through its own investment, and the pressure it puts on competitors to reach those markets? It could accomplish that goal in a fraction of the time without bumbling Federal regulators and bad investment decisions by DC power brokers who know nothing of your rural broadband needs or market competition.
Chambers of Commerce, Immigrant Groups, in fact a wide cross section of groups, elected politicians, and organizations like the idea because they believe it will make broadband more accessible, incentive small business growth, create jobs, and expand the economy (which, for the benefit of our liberal friends is a real net revenue increase: more tax revenue realized without spending any taxes–or creating any new ones–in the process.)
And this will sound odd coming from me, but Unions love the idea as well. Though I do have two points here. First they love it because T-Mobile is anti-union and AT&T is more union job friendly. That’s fine. This is a private sector union and if the free market supports those jobs I’m good with that. But, and this is my second point, we should keep an eye on folks like David Lang of the Professional Fire Fighters of New Hampshire, (Public union) who is getting quoted in PC Mag about it. Based on his PAC’s donation history he is less concerned with jobs and the economy and more concerned with union power. Color me amused if we agree here on the larger points at least. The union could kill the deal. I like the potential benefits of the deal so far.
Finally, T-Mobile does not appear to be in a position to move to 4G with purpose so it would get stuck midway in an evolving technology war it can’t win. That means that be it now or next year, someone will try to buy it merge with it, or pick up the pieces should it collapse. This merger makes it part of a competitor without the sloppy side-effects. It incentives competitors to speed up access. And broadband in general has shown the ability to bring opportunity, growth, and private sector jobs as small business owners take advantage of their ability to interact with the world.
We know the government will just get in the way. The FCC is in the midst of doing that now. I say let the market drive the growth and innovation to expand coverage. Let them fight for customers. We’ll get to the goal faster and more efficiently, and Uncle Sam? He can just sit on the porch and enjoy the view.