The usually measured and smart Dan Gillmor seems to be projecting his own confusion about libertarianism onto others. 802.11 is an example where deregulation works. Asking for incumbent Phone and Cable companies to be subject to competition, instead of being allowed to turn commodity connectivity into their own private walled garden is not inconsistent with this. David Reed puts it well:
This advocate of high bandwidth connectivity would like just one thing, and it has nothing to do with "federal assistance". It has everything to do with removing federal and state granted monopolies from ILECs and cable companies, so it is possible to compete by innovation.
Just as we gave prime spectrum to the NAB members because they "promised" to do HDTV, and gave AOLTW a pass in antitrust because they promised to "open" up their network to ISPs...
Now we are going to give federal support to the ILECs and cable guys, because they "promise" broadband to the home.
I predict in 5 years we'll be exactly where we are today, with the ILEC and cable guys saying they don't see a "business model". And no one will wonder where all the federal money went...
Dan, here's a challenge for you. Use the Merc's bully pulpit to get San Jose to allow open access to the poles and conduits attached to all our houses for anyone who will run fibre alongside the phones and CATV wires already strung.