Want broadband access? Save copper infrastructure

 With this week’s release of the Federal Communications Commission’s Sixth Broadband Deployment Report, Chairman Julius Genachowski got it right: As many as 24 million Americans still have no access to broadband and won’t anytime soon. So why is it so hard to get the reforms we need to maximize rollout? (“FCC: Broadband prospects bleak for up to 24 million,” July 20)

 The commission set forth a number of reasons for the problem, but one lost in the shuffle is this: The ongoing efforts by a handful of dominant telecommunications giants to disconnect their copper wire networks, foreclosing the possibility for the ubiquitous and economic provision of broadband access by competitors. Simply allowing copper-over-broadband providers to maintain access to the Bell’s existing infrastructure could exponentially increase rates of broadband access and adoption throughout the U.S.


We agree with Chairman Genachowski. Now is the time to implement the FCC’s proposed National Broadband Plan (the “NBP”).  

 As the FCC clearly understands, access to high-speed broadband’s capabilities — particularly in unserved or underserved sectors such as small and medium-sized businesses — offers unique potential to spur economic growth at a time when many everyday Americans continue to suffer the effects of the recent Great Recession. Green technology and telemedicine, telecommuting, public safety, mobile devices — not to mention nearly every imaginable form of commerce — will benefit if small and medium-sized businesses can finally get the advanced broadband capabilities they need to thrive in the emerging Internet-dependent world.

 Specifically, the NBP asks that the issue of copper retirement be reviewed through the prism of encouraging the rapid deployment of broadband capabilities to businesses where fiber deployment may never prove economic. There is simply no reason not to pursue all technologies for broadband access, particularly one that is so available today on a nationwide basis. 

 The FCC should move expeditiously to review the legacy special access regime and ensure access to the existing copper infrastructure for broadband development. Sensible regulations in these two areas would empower competitors to further invest in high quality, faster communications services at a fair price for consumers. This would enhance economic welfare throughout the critical small to medium-sized business segment, the engine for job growth.  

 We cannot delay in undertaking the necessary proceedings and analysis that will enable the FCC’s vision in the NBP to be achieved. Either we move now or risk missing what could have been our last, best hope for swift economic recovery.

Herndon, Va.

Take cue from Cameron, apologize for Kent State

From Vanni Cappelli

Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron displayed high camaraderie in Washington last week while privately agreeing to disagree on several substantive issues. Yet there is one area of statesmanship — the necessity of basing reconciliation over outstanding national traumas on a firm foundation of truth and justice — where the president could do no better than to emulate his counterpart.

Cameron’s formal state apology last month for the killing of 14 unarmed civil rights demonstrators by British troops on “Bloody Sunday” 1972 has been justly hailed as a landmark assumption of responsibility by a government for its own actions. Less obvious is the fact that his brave affirmation did not so much bring closure to an old tragedy as accomplish a tragic resolution, in a sense known to literature from Homer to Shakespeare to Hawthorne.

The government inquiry that found the shootings to be “unjustifiable” was a passage from ignorance to knowledge, and the prime minister’s declaration that the soldiers “acted wrongly” a catharsis. Such an honest confrontation with error is at the heart of the tragic ethos’ promise of new beginnings through self-scrutiny and has applications from the widest problems of geopolitics, such as Afghanistan and its region, to singular wounds like Bloody Sunday — or our own Kent State shootings of 1970.

That killing of four unarmed students by Ohio National Guardsmen at a demonstration against President Nixon’s invasion of Cambodia stands as an emblematic moment in the American experience, for it symbolized the enormous waste of the war in Vietnam while illuminating the themes of governmental hubris, national division, and right to dissent which are the enduring challenges of a democracy. Forty years later, amidst another unpopular war that is going badly, the fact that there has never been anything remotely resembling a satisfactory legal or political settlement for an event that a presidential commission on campus unrest termed “unnecessary, unwarranted, and inexcusable” is a stark indictment of our own capacity for moral accountability. It also places in doubt our ability to deal with current problems by acknowledging the past patterns of failure that brought them about.

President Obama can set it right. In emulation of Cameron’s example, which was itself in the spirit of a defining aspect of Western civilization, he should issue a formal apology for Kent State. While expressing sorrow for the losses inflicted by American soldiers on their fellow citizens on that terrible day, he should affirm that the shootings were a divergence from the proud legacy of American military heroism and urge that his action be an occasion for reflection, the healing of the lingering traumas of that time and a resolve that civil rights will not be similarly violated in the future. 

Poughkeepsie, N.Y.