With all of the questions over line sharing recently, as well as yesterday's Brand X ruling, people are once again looking to figure out what's the best way to encourage and build next generation networks for broadband. While it looks like the US is going away from the idea of a common carrier route, some of the municipal efforts (such as in Philadelphia) represent interest in the other direction. Over in the UK, it appears that some are addressing the issue in a different way. The government sold various 3G spectrum licenses to five different companies, and over the past few years, almost all of them seemed to regret the incredibly high price they paid. There are still complaints about the hole this left the providers in, and the fact that the services offered still aren't very good. So, some are wondering, wouldn't it have made more sense to have everyone team up and build the network together, splitting the costs five-fold, and then allowing everyone to use it? There are obvious pros and cons to such plans. It does fit, somewhat, with the way telco and cable lines were allowed originally -- noting that there's a natural monopoly and it didn't make sense for five different companies to string up five sets of lines to every house, just in case they offered service. Wireless sort of gets rid of that (at least the last mile aspect of it), but that doesn't mean the rationale doesn't make some amount of sense. The question, really, is whether or not it should be government regulated so that no one else can offer service, or if these companies simply come to an agreement together to pool their resources in order to build a better network. Of course, many companies don't want to do that, believing that they'll be able to differentiate themselves on the network itself. However, that only makes sense when the networks are all bad. If the technology really works, there should be much differentiation in the network, but in the services on top of the network.
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