Rural Telcos Unite!.......hello?
I'm a young manager of a small Iowa telephone company sitting in a banquet room of 50+ other rural telcos from around my state talking about the issues effecting our industry today. As many of you know the FCC has flipped the regulated world on it's head in an effort to "Connect America". This is the FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski's feather in his cap to a series of unprecedented changes made by the FCC in the world of Broadband. While I believe these changes were necessary and I am the minority when it comes to independent rural telcos that dominant the landscape in Iowa. We are one the few states that have not been divided and conquered by one of the large juggernauts such as Comcast or AT&T but all of this is in jeopardy. As I look around this room of fellow general managers the average age is much like our leaders in Washington, late 50's to early 60's. Many of them are still in denial when it comes to the new changes and many others are just waiting for their retirement.
While some of us have chose to take these new laws in stride and built fiber to the home to not only provide cutting edge services to our customers but also keep the large corporations at bay. Unfortunately many of my peers have taken the new FCC changes and decided to freeze all funding of fiber projects. And this is not just a trend in our state but many others who relied on FCC settlements to fund their growth. While the Chairman Genachowski's intent was to build a comprehensive network from coast to coast, it has instead escalated the extinction process of rural telcos and given dollars to large companies to build out to new areas. One of the key changes is a 9 year plan that quickly strips government funding to telcos and requires them to become a bill and keep company by the end of this process.
So here I sit at this crossroads of the telco industry wondering in the end how is this going to effect the customer. Is this better for the customer, big business, government, or no one? If the goal of the FCC is to have a broadband network that serves everyone adequately, who is going to control this network in the end and who will gain the most? Will small telcos like myself find ways to survive in this new enviornment? Will Verizon, AT&T and Comcast rule the network with an iron fist? Will government regulate and take control of our broadband networks? While our government has been unsuccessful in regulating the internet if they steal the backbone of the internet, which is broadband, have they not won the war?
While the future of technology always has excited me and been my passion in life, I worry about where is it all going and will we look back and wish we had done more to keep the internet and our broadband networks an open and free enterprise. We have all been complaining for years about the control of TV networks on content, the monopoly in cellular services and now we are on the edge of losing control of broadband.