Building the Networks of the Future

Washington, DC

Posted on: Feb 16, 2018

The lack of broadband competition in America is a national disappointment: 89 percent of Americans only have one or two choices of broadband provider. It is a major problem that is slowing down our economy and holding back the future of applications and software, technology that will change the world.

Andrew Lipman (Morgan Lewis), panelists Malena Barzilai (Windstream), Paula Boyd (Microsoft), Greg Green (Fatbeam), John Burchett (Google Fiber) and Jeff Strenkowski (Uniti Fiber)

But it was refreshing to hear success stories from companies mounting a challenge to incumbents. Moderated by Andrew Lipman, Partner at Morgan Lewis, our Building the Future panel included John Burchett, Head of Public Policy, Google Access & Google Fiber, who discussed how a refocused and refreshed Google Fiber is changing the marketplace. Burchett noted that when Google Fiber entered a new market, usually as the third provider, incumbent providers like AT&T and Comcast upgrade their networks to compete with Google Fiber's gigabit service. Plus, broadband prices for consumers drop. In fact, in Atlanta, GA, incumbents dropped their prices by $25 just from a Google Fiber deployment announcement! That's a clear sign that monopoly markets are broken, and competition provides the cure.

Microsoft's Paula Boyd, who is Senior Director, Government & Regulatory Affairs, spoke about the innovative use of white spaces and spectrum, as Microsoft's groundbreaking rural initiative to deliver broadband in hard-to-reach rural areas enters year two.

Windstream Vice President of Government Affairs, Malena Barzilai and Fatbeam CEO Greg Green stressed the need to remove regulatory barriers and local red tape that are holding back new deployment. Uniti Fiber's Vice President and Deputy General Counsel of Governmental Affairs, Jeff Strenkowski, thanked FCC Chairman Ajit Pai for leading the conversation to help streamline the state and local permitting processes. The panelists were hopeful that recommendations from the BDAC process will result in action.

On the question of new federal funding for broadband infrastructure, panelists warned that federal funding must not only be reserved for incumbent providers. In order to spur innovation and investment, competition must have the same opportunity to drive new deployments. Historically, smaller companies take more risks and invest in next generation technology.