If our political leaders truly want to bring a wave of business back to the United States, or even create fertile ground for small business growth, then change must occur in telecom in rural America. When AT&T was “broken” up in 1982, it simply took a nationwide monopoly and created hundreds of rural monopolies. In typical government fashion, they simply split the revenue pie to more privileged players versus creating an open market.
Businesses today pick their locations primarily based on data, electric, water, and gas services (in that order). We are a first world nation so electric, water, and gas are pretty much a given anywhere you drive on a paved road. What is not a given, but is the most critical, are data and voice services. Factories and small businesses need data and voice more than ever.
True story. We have a customer in a small town 40 miles away from Birmingham, AL. This customer had acquired an old garment factory with 200,000 square feet of open space with the intent of dividing it into smaller areas for labor based businesses. The area has skilled laborers in a low cost of living region and easy transportation. All the right ingredients for a manufacturing operation. The owner of the business calls and indicates they have a prospective tenant that is interested in using 30,000 square feet for a boutique linen operation and will hire 50 locals to work. Part of the tenants equipment is IoT (Internet of Things) based for monitoring and maintenance. Therefore the tenant would like “high speed” internet. We reached out to the local telecom company in this town for fiber. To our dismay, the only options were 30Mb/s cable for $159 / month or bonded T-1’s providing 4.5Mb/s for $1,250 per month!! This is 2017.
The local telecom company has a lock on the town, provides horrible service, is losing money, and is blocking any other providers from entering the market – the pure definition of a monopoly.
It is time the FCC disbanded the CLEC and ILEC structure in the United States. Small town America is being held hostage by decaying old telecom institutions. If you want to unlock a wave of low cost labor simply tear down the whole LATA concept. Numbers should be portable, data should be competitive, and true capitalism must be in play.