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Mr. Paul T. Morris
June 14, 2006
Testimony of Paul Morris
United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary
"Reconsidering Our Communications Laws: Ensuring Competition and Innovation"
2. UTOPIA's Purpose
3. Role of Municipalities
Allowing local elected officials to judge how important advanced broadband availability is to their communities and letting them determine how best to secure its deployment stimulates innovation. The accumulated experience of local responses to local conditions is a valuable source of learning and adaptation for all communities in the nation.
4. UTOPIA's Story
These leaders also recognized that working together to aggregate resources would further assist in achieving these important community goals. UTOPIA comprises urban and rural, and large and small cities. The largest community has a population of 130,000 and the smallest is 2,500. But together they have a combined population of almost a half a million people which allows for multiple competitive providers to offer services and be profitable.
After two years of study and planning, UTOPIA issued an $85 million revenue bond in July 2004 to build its first phase in six of the 14 cities. At this point, 25,000 homes and businesses are ready for service, over 4,200 have signed up with one or more of our four current private service providers, and more are signing up daily.
5. Open Wholesale Fiber Network
a. Symmetry: Users can send information just as quickly as they can receive it. Traditionally, the focus has been on download speeds. But human communication for entertainment, business activity, social cohesion, and family unity needs to be interactive. We need not only to see but to be seen. Giving individuals the ability to send as quickly as they receive can be transformational. It allows for quick dissemination of data rich content and enables a high quality real time communications experience.
b. Capacity: A fiber network has incredible bandwidth capacity, enabling new applications such as inexpensive high quality video conferencing, distance learning, high definition IPTV, telemedicine, and telework. We currently are working with private companies to test three new applications that require the bandwidth that an all-fiber network can support. Two of these tests are being conducted by an international media company and involve a whole new way of viewing video content. The third, is an inexpensive high quality video chat that is easy to install and use.
c. Wholesale: Both the symmetry and bandwidth capacity of the network enable the implementation of UTOPIA's philosophy of operating the network as a wholesale public infrastructure. Much like an international airport, constructed by a municipality to enhance the local economy, UTOPIA is building the electronic airport but not "trying to fly the planes." It is neutral between its service providers and will not compete against them in the provision of services to customers. This allows for robust competition, the introduction of new services, and innovation.
6. Pending Federal Legislation
We believe that legislation that recognizes this role and allows municipalities to chart their own course should be supported. Specifically, the original draft of SB 2686 dealing with municipal participation in broadband developments was of great concern to us. However, the provisions found in "Title V - Municipal Broadband" in the Staff Discussion Draft of SB 2686, dated June 9, 2006 is a great improvement and we support its concepts. Similarly, the telecom reform bill passed by the House last week has similar language that is a positive approach.
Also, there has been much debate over network neutrality. While UTOPIA has not taken a position on network neutrality as applied to other networks, our network solves this problem without the need for regulation. We understand the concern over the public policy implications raised in the debate, but with an ample supply of bandwidth coupled with multiple service providers freely competing for the consumer's dollar on a network such as ours, the free market will resolve the issue. One of our concerns is the scope of the language of some network neutrality proposals and its implications as applied to an open network.
Thank you for your time. I look forward to working together to advance our common interests. I am happy to answer your questions, or to respond to any follow-up requests afterwards from your staff.