Opinion By Sam Liccardo
SAN JOSE, Calif. - Like every other 8-year-old whom I tutored at a local school, Omar didn't know anything - and didn't care much - about high-stakes disputes over net neutrality, free speech and privacy that have consumed much of the news coverage of the telecommunications industry in recent years. Yet the inability of Omar's parents to afford broadband internet access lies at the heart of a battle that will have a far greater impact on his future: the fight over street poles.
Public street poles may not look like much, but to wireless service providers, they're valuable real estate. Companies like Verizon want low-cost access to them to install equipment to handle the rapidly growing demand for mobile data. But poles are owned locally, and cities and counties aren't eager to give away access at below-market rates. Doing so would essentially subsidize an already wealthy industry - nationwide, as much as $2 billion a year, money that could otherwise go to expanding low-cost broadband access for people like Omar's family.