Internet Service as a Title II Utility

During 2015 the FCC reclassified Internet service as a Title II utility.   This was done to give the FCC the proper authority to regulate Internet service in the United States and oversee Net Neutrality rules that would protect consumers and content providers from various carrier practices.

As both wireless data and Internet service migrated from the unregulated to the regulated, the FCC did not impose heavy regulation on these new utility-class services.  Rather the FCC characterizes the regulations on these services as light, but important new rules apply.

Of all of the new rules, the most important for aspiring broadband suppliers is that pole rights and other public right-of-ways are now non-exclusive.   Heretofore Internet service providers (ISP) would have to negotiate with right-of-way owners and could be excluded out-of-hand.

In the FCC's view, Internet services like wireless data and broadband will eventually subsume cable TV and landline phone service, and these new classifications and regulations are levers to move this along faster.  Since right-of-ways are now open to any new entrant ISP, this is a sea change opportunity.

Publicly owned Internet providers were traditional municipalities who could co-op right-of-ways to their own use by using local ordinances. This was an effective way for cities to affordably build their own ISP by overlaying on top of existing utility infrastructure.   Now with the new FCC classifications, new entrant ISP's have the right-of-way infrastructure available to them via traditional utility rental tariffs.   This means that the areas that lie outside of cities, suburbia if you will, is now open to the land rush of broadband choice.

Stark County - Supply Meets Demand

Stark County lies conveniently between the metropolitan areas of Chicago and New York.  As such Northeastern Ohio is rich in fiber assets that are high-capacity, high-speed and wholesale in nature. The economic opportunity of any entity offering gigabit broadband to our area is to aggregate enough demand to be able take advantage of the wholesale market.   Ideally, this entity aka broad utility would be able to choose between multiple suppliers at any time and create a marketplace of suppliers to service that demand.

Facilities that house these types of switches are called carrier hotels and beyond just offering greater choice, they can deliver unique and regional value.

A carrier hotel location could also offer local co-hosting of equipment that is owned by larger customers.   This would be important to large customer, if such a large customer might experience large swings in bandwidth required, due to seasonal demand in their business cycle, the introduction of new products and services, and the desire to have a scalable on-line presence.

Where to Start?

Much of Stark County's population and commercial activity takes place along the North - South Whipple corridor. Just 11 miles as the crow flies from Faircrest Street SW to the Akron-Canton Airport, this corridor has the ability to aggregate the demand from many of our largest employers, shopping centers, tourist attractions, office parks, cities and subdivisions.   A loop architecture could be employed to not only address redundancy issues, but to encompass more territory.

One of the findings the Task Team has found in previous broadband initiative failures were overly ambitious build-out plans based upon flawed assumptions and a lack of subscribers per mile. By addressing this dense corridor first, a network could capture the densest subscribers per mile in the county, before addressing additional phases to provide service to other regions.

Using a deliberate, phased approach will help mitigate risk of large capital costs vs subscriber take-up rates as well as the possiblity of disruptive technology change.