In this post I hope to tie to together some threads of analysis explored in earlier posts, with the goal of setting the stage for a follow-up post that will outline what I’ll call my “broadband pipe dream.”
So let’s review….
In a previous post I provided a conceptual overview of how a combination of New Growth Theory (NGT) and Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) provides a policy rationale for federal investment in broadband infrastructure and related development of value-generating network usage, skills and applications development.
This investment would support accelerated Internet-driven economic growth, as explained by New Growth Theory and its analysis of “the economics of ideas.”
It would do so by leveraging the U.S.government’s ability to deploy its sovereign currency in ways that (contrary to economic conventional wisdom), would not trigger deficit-driven problems related to the solvency of the U.S.government or inflation, as explained by Modern Monetary Theory.
In several other recent posts I considered issues related to the industry’s migration of Internet access to vertically-integrated and unregulated monopoly or duopoly structures, and the impact of this trend on the Internet’s “openness.” (see here, here, here, here, here and here). As I noted, these issues have been explored in depth by law professor Susan Crawford, in several papers and an upcoming book entitled “Captive Audience: The Telecom Industry and Monopoly Power in the New Gilded Age.”
In another post I considered different models of ownership and control of Internet access networks, applying an analytical framework developed by Marjorie Kelly in her new book, Owning our Future. This framework focuses on differences between ownership structures with a purpose of maximizing “financial extraction,” and ownership models that have what Kelly refers to as a “generative” purpose and structure.
In that post I argued that publicly-traded cablecos and telcos typically approach local networks with a primary purpose of financial extraction (e.g., maximizing stock price, free cash flow, shareholder dividends, etc.). In contrast, community-owned networks tend to have a “generative” purpose along the lines of:
…to provide households, businesses and public service organizations (e.g., schools, healthcare providers, public safety, etc.) with affordable, reliable, symmetrical, high-capacity broadband connectivity and related services, to support their ability to prosper and thrive in an increasingly competitive and knowledge-based global economy.
It seems to me that this kind of “generative” purpose and ownership structure is very much in harmony with the growth-promoting role of the Internet, as suggested by New Growth Theory. That’s because such an ownership model will tend to maximize the free flow and “combinatorial explosion” of ideas by maximizing Internet availability, affordability, symmetrical capacity, and the ability of end-users to freely leverage these capabilities to generate and exchange value–without control or censorship of this exchange of ideas and value by a centralized authority, whether it be a public or private entity. Continue reading