Connection Rights and a First-Sale Doctrine for Broadband

These legislative propositions came to me as ideas that would ease Data Road equipment deployment in the future, but I think they could have a good (but more subtle) effect on their own, and with Network Neutrality legislation in general. Let me know if you agree.

Connection Rights

Lines from utility poles and conduits within right-of-way spaces invariably cross into private property at some point. There is a tacit agreement that the property holder will not charge a rent for this space, in return for access to the services that the utility line provides. In balance with this existing yet unspoken agreement, the property owners should have the right to connect their own lines back to the pole or right-of-way conduit that connects through their property, at no charge. If an attempt at a rental charge is made, the property owner has the right to counter-charge for rental of space for lines traversing their property, thus cancelling out all potential rents from both ends.

Further, if an agreement can be made between two separate property holders within 2 degrees of connection (2 poles or right-of-way spaces separate them at most), they have the right to jointly utilize their separate connection rights to connect directly with each other, over the shared set of means. They will naturally have to obey any state and federal regulatory restrictions on the line types and installation methods used. The restriction of 2-degree separation or below should keep the structural and financial impacts of these direct connections on utility infrastructure to a minimum.

First-Sale Doctrine for Broadband

In the same way that first-sale doctrine implicitly grants product consumers the ability to resell items that are not currently being used, like used books and discs — bandwidth subscribers should have the implicit right to resell or share unused capacity. Unsigned and ill considered “Terms of Use” agreements generally prohibit such resell, and are currently dictated to most broadband subscribers by providers at sign-up without their consultation or any forewarning. All such subscription contract terms or resell prohibitions should be stricken as unlawful, void, and unenforceable.

The test for maximum bandwidth capacity available for resell should be held to advertised bandwidth speeds, to prevent providers from making false statements about their subscription service provision. A book seller can’t advertise a whole book at one price, and then only give you half the book for the same advertised price. The same should hold true for broadband sellers.

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