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A coalition of Florida business groups says government should deliver Internt broadband to Florida’s underserved communities, where “it has been economically difficult or impossible for private companies to provide services.”

The Coalition for the New Economy — which works to ensure “that investments in broadband networks are used efficiently and effectively”—  wrote Tuesday that “funding for government-owned broadband networks is very often duplicative,” and “diverts local funds from public safety and education.”

The coalition adds that the Broadband and Social Justice website pointed out that “approximately 100 million Americans still do not have access to broadband in their homes. Americans without broadband access – largely minorities, residents of rural communities and women – risk falling behind economically and in terms of education and professional development.”

Coalition members in Florida include: Associated Industries of Florida, the Florida Chamber of Commerce, the Florida Federation of Republican Women, Freedom Works, Florida Tax Watch, the Florida United Businesses Association, the National Federation of Independent Business and the Stuart/Martin County Chamber of Commerce.

In the effort to increase broadband coverage the coalition says “the role of governments should be to make certain that Internet services are available to every American – not to create additional choices for few at the expense of all taxpayers.”

Christopher Mitchell of Community Broadband Networks tells the Independent that official U.S. government policy believes “we can have proper competition if every competitor builds their own network, and that is not at all supported by reality.”

Community Broadband Networks provides “news, information, research, and connections to the nation-wide movement of building broadband networks that are directly accountable to the community they serve.” The organization says that because communities need high-speed Internet solutions for 20 years, not just two, they are building their own next generation networks.

“The costs of building a network are so incredibly large that very few will ever be able to build networks. It lends itself, if we look at the market, to consolidate over time. We look at less competition rather than more. The future is one of fewer choices,” Mitchell tells the Independent.

He adds that “to the extent we rely on the private sector, we need competition. If we don’t have competition, the private sector is not going to do a good job.”

According to Mitchell, there is a tremendous role for the private sector, but “if we look at rural areas the business model is terrible for the private sector; there is not a very good return on their investment.”

“In rural areas you often have one phone company, because there is no money in overbuilding [the network],” Mitchell adds, and “even if you get every susbcriber, it is still not enough people to guarantee a return on investment in three years.”

He adds that there is no reason “that on a fiber optic network you can’t get phone service from one company, Internet access from another company and television services from a third company. What is stopping that currently is the business model, which is [a private company] owns the line and they make more money by monopolizing the line.”

Mitchell adds that fiber optics is a core technology, so “communities have been willing to invest in these fiber optics cables because” they will have benefits for 20 years and possibly more, while the private companies are not interested in that “long horizon” because “that is the business model.”

“Community has to have broadband Internet, fast speeds that are reliable. Without it, it’s sunk,” Mitchell says. “Our argument is that private companies do not have the incentive to invest at the right level because the investment takes so long to pay off.”

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