(Published January 21. Updated January 26 with an article dated January 22, 2015, see below)
1. In his very inspiring “State Of The Union” (#SOTU) speech President Obama said one sentence which represents a breakthrough for the USA ‘Internet Infrastructure’, which will influence and improve the lives of many millions of US Americans.
” I intend to protect a free and open internet, extend its reach to every classroom, and every community, and help folks build the fastest networks, so that the next generation of digital innovators and entrepreneurs have the platform to keep reshaping our world.” Full text see , video fragment, see .
This one sentence has not been noticed by most of the press and media, and it may sound rather vague and ‘well intended, but toothless’ but it is not. Behind it is a remarkable change in policy which has been carefully researched and prepared by many from the local communities, small enterprises, schools and internet users in smaller towns and rural areas, eager to get a better internet connections. The unblocking policy change is to overrule the blockade many state laws and regulations, installed over decades by telcos, cableTV network services, cellphone mobile providers and ISP access network services; to prevent MUNIcipal community cooperatives to construct and provide better and cheaper internet access themselves.
President Obama made a statement during the preparation of the SOTU to announce why this excecutive act of unblocking the Fiber-to-the-Home/ Business/ Farm rollout is necessary.
Here is the video shot in the Oval Room to explain that: Broadband de-blocking 
And the speech he gave in Cedar Falls (text) http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2015/01/14/remarks-president-promoting-community-broadband . (video, see:) http://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/politics/2015/01/14/obama-cedar-falls-high-speed-internet-broadband/21765287/
The press reacted immediately, saying that such a policy act would be very controversial and hard to get through legislation, FCC and other agencies, see  and NY Times . What these press articles have missed is the root cause of the Presidential Action is that the present (and planned) broadband network access is of bad quality, slow and very expensive; compared to other Internet access networks in the world. The further local rollout of these network infrastructures with fiber optical cables has been systematically obstructed, stopped or delayed by the supply side of the network market. In countries like S-Korea, Norway, Sweden and the Netherlands low cost 1 Gbits/sec symmetric FttH networks are available to the businesses and households, 100 times faster than the average network access in the USA, and much lower cost/month.
2. Background information on this Presidential Policy Broadband Breakthrough
- The Whitehouse published a “Community-based Broadband Solutions” report  in which the present broadband situation in the USA is presented and compared to other countries. Also is indicated what effects improved broadband will have on the communities, jobs and businesses. And how urgently citizens (bipartisan) need it for their schoolchildren, work at home and education. Christopher Mitchell and others of the Cook Report discussion group have provided much material for this report. The address of Chris is:
Christopher Mitchell Director, Community Broadband Networks Institute for Local Self-Reliance http://www.muninetworks.org
- Prof. Susan Crawford recently published a shocking report about the shameless blockade I mentioned.
The American Internet Access providers throttled internet traffic, kept the network capacities scarce and expensive,
despite sinking cost of equipment and cables due to Moore’s Law. This is robbing customers and hindering their activities, more formally called “market failure by invisible monopolies and kartels”.
– Bruce Kushnick, Director of the New Networks Institute, published a book “The $300 Billion Broadband Scandal” how the telecom and network providers got over decades huge sums of money from the US Government to do the rollout of Broadband access networks and just DID NOT DO THAT, while putting the money in their coffers.
3. So now to break this rather embarassing blockade the President of the USA gave the green light to the Muni initiatives to go ahead and do it themselves, and regain on the stagnation and backward position as compared to other countries for the benefit of economy society and future value creation and new jobs that are knowledge and information based.
4. Why should this USA policy breakthrough concern us in Europe? Well, while in many countries we where able to introduce competition and break the stranglehold of the national tele and cableTV incumbents and liberate companies and people from telling us what is good for us, it is an ongoing battle since the supply side is very powerful and well organised. Mrs. Neelie Kroes the former EU Commisioner responsible for the Digital Agenda often ran into a brick wall when trying to slowly improve price/quality of (mobile) network services. This liberation is a long and hard process.
The network conditions in Europe can be broadly characterized as from North to South: Liberal to rather backwards.
And the national regulations and providers are still different country by country. The FTTH Council Europe has an active lobby.
The Scandinavian countries are best, but have a relatively small population. The Netherlands is densely populated (17 million) and very well wired and well connected with fiber, thank you.
But in NL the cheapest price for cellphone service 4G (LTE) is 30 Euro/ month (10 GB max) as compared to Sweden where it is 40 Euro/month for 100 GB at 40Mbps wireless. So the difference is roughly a FACTOR 5 for a country which is 13 times bigger & with half of the population! So there is still much to be done in Europe too to liberate us from network companies that must maybe be dis-intermediated for the obstacle they pose. I hope that our governments see that too.
5. In fact the big shift in market power, from which the USA Presidents deblocking act is a part, is from SUPPLY SIDE to DEMAND SIDE, that is getting organized. In MUNIcipalities but also on Twitter and P2P Commons, like in the Maker Movement. This big shift from supply- to demand side power in the Network Society has been described by me in a recent post about “The New Power” on this blog NP1 :
6. A very recent example of this New Power by cooperating users is the FireChat App used by the demonstrators in Hong Kong, Moscow, Paris and during the visit of the Pope in Manila to coordinate their actions with smartphones that can network without network services that breakdown under congestion in the huge masses that where assembled.
Rather frightening for the authorities :-))
7. Examples of very successful “demand side power” bundling in The Netherlands are SURFnet for the Research and Education population (1,5 million smarties) and NDIX a distributed Internet Exchange in NL and Germany, connecting 60 municipalities; and the telecom user procurement cooperative BTG Foundation of the big companies in the NL (associated with the INTUG (International Telecommunication User Group). None of these groups are very new but they have persistently improved network infrastructures and conditions by being assertive.
I wish you all good connections !!
PS. The crux of this story is that “We the People” must realize us that Digital Bandwidth (capacity) and Electro Magnetic Frequencies (analog bandwidth) are no longer scarce resources that must be dished out parsimoniously : expensive and low quality. We must stop believing those fairytales. Since the invention and continuous innovation of: fiber optical cables (40 years ago !), cellular wireless, Wi-Fi both fixed and wireless capacities are abundant and can be scaled up. The supplyside providers buy these resources for lower and lower prices and keep selling them at nearly same prices to the demand side and prevent others to enter the market with lower more realistic prices. I am happy that the White House has now got this message of the blockades too.
Jaap van Till, the connectivist
 Susan Crawford, October 24 2014 : “The Cliff and the Slope” The proof is in: Detailed report shows how U.S. Internet access monopolies punish rivals and catch innocent bystanders in the crossfire—legally.
Update: very good article in the Mother Jones Journal: “City wifi: Fast, cheap, and no you can’t have it” .
A must-see video is included with an interview with Susan Crawford, which is quite revealing.
She tells why you can not get good broadband access in the USA AND at a affordable price. And what must be done to get it.