Sweden: A Model for the Broadband Future?

Sweden’s telecoms regulator recently issued a report detailing how openness in broadband infrastructure affects competition, and I thought it would be good to highlight since the FCC is embarking on a similar effort focused on the wireless industry. Sweden is a leader in broadband penetration, has some of the lowest average monthly high-speed Internet costs, and is boosting its fiber penetration, according to data from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Most of the 134-page report is in Swedish, but the English abstract provided a good framework for thinking about competition in broadband.

From the report:

This report takes the market stakeholders as its starting point and is structured around a value chain for the production of broadband-based Internet access and services. The value chain is divided into five levels — natural resources (use of and access to land, ducts and spectrum), infrastructure (passive cables and masts), transmission (equipment for transportation of bit-streams), IP/Internet (equipment for traffic direction and IP addressing) and content and services (content, services and end user equipment). The report identifies — on each level of the value chain — challenges to openness.

Access to dark fiber is a key roadblock to openness and thus, innovation, the report found, and suggests that the government take a complementary role in promoting a fiber infrastructure. It also suggests that the lock-in periods and high fees for terminating a broadband contract slow innovation because unhappy consumers can’t “vote with their feet.” The final roadblock is a lack of spectrum for mobile broadband access. These issues are all important today in the U.S., so if anyone on Julius Genachowski’s team reads Swedish, it’s probably worth picking it up.

Image courtesy of Panoramas on Flickr