Share/E-mail This Story

Email This



FCC Apparently Not Very Concerned About Consumer Views On Broadband

from the keep-quiet-and-take-what-we-give-you dept

We recently expressed our concerns with the state of the government's attempts to increase broadband in the US. Karl Bode, over at Broadband Reports has now hit quite a homerun with his analysis of 5 signs of why the broadband plan is in trouble. The whole thing is worth reading, but I wanted to highlight number 5 on the list, because it's a big problem:
The FCC continues to hold "workshops" to discuss the direction and scope of the national broadband plan. They're also recording presentations by all of the FCC's "constituents," and offering consumers instantaneous access to all of the documents being presented at the workshop at the Broadband.gov website. All of this is absolutely great. What's not so great?

There are 51 panelists attending the latest 8 workshops. Out of those 51, there are just five people not directly associated with a company: Dave Burstein, Craig Moffett, George Ford, Victor Frost and Henning Schulzrinne. Moffett is a stock jock who's positions (such as upgrades are unnecessary and consumers should be paying more money) are clearly not going to serve anyone but investors. Ford works at the Phoenix Center, an AT&T-funded "think tank," who's job is to parrot AT&T policy positions.

Of the remaining three, only Burstein, a long-time telecom beat reporter, will likely ask any hard questions -- and then again his job is to get scoops, not to represent the public interest. Zero of the originally scheduled attendees acted as public interest witnesses. After complaints by consumer groups, Dr. Mark Cooper from the Consumer Federation Of America was added at the last second, but the fact that this was an afterthought raises questions about how "transparent and inclusive" this process really is.
This definitely seems like politics as usual. And it's a problem, not just for the FCC, but for the very businesses involved in these discussions. Ignoring consumer will these days is increasingly a suicide pact. The businesses leading this discussion would be well-served to look at what's happening in other industries (music, newspapers) where business execs have been trying to ignore consumers' rights and interests, in the belief that they have some sort of monopoly control over their market. Those things can disappear quickly, and when stripped of such artificial protections, it's amazing how fast the consumers you mistreated will move elsewhere.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 14th, 2009 @ 3:12pm

    The fact of the matter is that these artificial scarcities disappeared because of the lack of Internet regulation. If they start regulating the medium that reduces these artificial scarcities in a way as to increase artificial scarcities then people will be forced to submit to such scarcities. WE MUST STAND AGAINST THIS with MUCH MORE FORCE than we are currently doing.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 14th, 2009 @ 3:14pm

    "Moffett is a stock jock who's positions (such as upgrades are unnecessary and consumers should be paying more money)"

    How the HECK does this guy even have a seat at the table. He should be kicked out and ignored. Why are we even tolerating this nonsense.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 14th, 2009 @ 3:20pm

    This is an outrage, people should be strongly protesting.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    identicon
    Merlin, Aug 14th, 2009 @ 3:39pm

    You're Wrong

    Unfortunately Mike, you don't understand that the incumbents DO have a monopoly over the industry, and it's not an intangible concept like "copyright" that enables them to maintain that monopoly.

    Their control over US broadband is rooted in the high expense of building out the "last mile" of their networks, such as in fiber to the home. The return on investment of fiber can be 5-10 years, possibly even longer if the takeup rate isn't at or around the 30% mark.

    Very few companies who have enough initial capital to build out FTTH are willing to invest in such a long-term project (investor greed). Obviously Verizon is the only major carrier currently doing something like this, but they're actually cherry picking their highest ROI areas and leaving many others behind.

    There are in fact many rural carriers who have been wiring up rural houses with fiber for years, willing to take on the ~10 year ROI project that FTTH represents, but they lack enough capital to build out to all their customers.

    So yes, a workshop that lacks consumer interest speakers is very detrimental to the national broadband plan.

    On the other hand, Blair Levin, the guy in charge of the 1996 Telecom Act, is drafting up the plan. So unless he's secretly turned into a stodgy old conservative, I think the plan will be an ambitious one in the end.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 14th, 2009 @ 3:46pm

    Re: You're Wrong

    "Their control over US broadband is rooted in the high expense of building out the "last mile" of their networks, such as in fiber to the home."

    and please tell, how much of that is funded via government grants?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 14th, 2009 @ 3:59pm

    Re: Re: You're Wrong

    The government is footing the bill here (7.2 billion dollars) so please explain to me why should telco/cable companies have control over U.S. broadband when the government is the one footing the bill. Please explain. This shouldn't be about investors, this should be about consumers and increasing aggregate output and consumer surplus.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
    icon
    Pitabred (profile), Aug 14th, 2009 @ 4:03pm

    Totally OT

    I don't know who wrote the passage that Techdirt quoted about all the non-industry players, but it just grates on me. "Who's" does not mean "whose". They mean very different things, even if they sound the same. Homophones are hard, kids!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
    icon
    Fred (profile), Aug 14th, 2009 @ 4:26pm

    Right

    I'm too sexy for national broadband.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
    identicon
    Nick, Aug 14th, 2009 @ 4:43pm

    Re: Re: Re: You're Wrong

    I assume the $7.2BN you're referring to is the Broadband Stimulus program. I'd like to note that part of the application is "Demonstration that the project would not be completed but for the program". The way I see it, the large incumbent carriers will not be getting a dime of that stimulus money, and it's going to go to the small carriers that deserve loans & grant funding that get it.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 14th, 2009 @ 5:58pm

    who's

    And thus, my reading of the linked article ended when the writer cited stopped using English.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 14th, 2009 @ 5:59pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: You're Wrong

    "The way I see it, the large incumbent carriers will not be getting a dime of that stimulus money, and it's going to go to the small carriers that deserve loans & grant funding that get it."

    Actually that's not true at all. Read

    http://www.muninetworks.org/content/how-ntia-dismantled-public-interest-provisions-broadband -stimulus-package

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 14th, 2009 @ 6:00pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: You're Wrong

    "Demonstration that the project would not be completed but for the program"

    and I'm not sure where you got this quote, please provide citations.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 14th, 2009 @ 6:05pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: You're Wrong

    "The way I see it, the large incumbent carriers will not be getting a dime of that stimulus money, and it's going to go to the small carriers that deserve loans & grant funding that get it."

    I want proof, I want the government to publicly document, on some government website, in detail exactly where every dollar went and who gets it. Without such government transparency why should I not assume the worst? If the government has nothing to hide then why not document this information? Do you have the govt website that documents this?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 14th, 2009 @ 6:17pm

    and seriously, with the government spending 7.2 billion dollars on infrastructure (most of which will probably wind up in the hands of telco corporations who will get monopolies over the infrastructure) why not have the government use that money instead to build infrastructure in the public domain that anyone can use to provide broadband service? Why should the govt give it to private entities to begin with? The govt should use that money to build public domain infrastructure that ANYONE can freely provide broadband on at the price of the free market. But no, the govt will end up giving it to large telcos with no transparency or accountability whatsoever and those telcos will simply pocket it.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
    identicon
    Ed C., Aug 14th, 2009 @ 8:11pm

    What he said

    Well, I was going to comment but #14 basically said it already. In short, there is no way in hell that much public money should be given away to build private property.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
    icon
    Hephaestus (profile), Aug 14th, 2009 @ 9:31pm

    Off the subject... kind of .... broadband penetration...

    Off the subject... kind of .... broadband penetration...

    But not very far off .... Big Ole Grin ...

    Questions ....

    How do we figure out which internet providers serve which areas? (since they dont want the info out there... to prevent competition)

    And how do we reduce internet access cost? (we figure out the penetration of Internet access and point out we only have one choice normally, the local laws need to change)

    What do we do to create a map of internet service providers service area's is the following ....
    1) IP Address (this finds us the service provider)
    2) physical Mailing address (Location, Location, Location)

    How do we do this .... hmmmm .... give me a sec ...

    Okay, it took me half an hour to figure out.

    to figure out which companies cover which area in the USA.
    1) Contact the following mail providers (yahoo, google, msn ... etc) and ask them to ask for street location .... What is your street address?

    2) What are the service providers? ie Ip addresses? (tracert)


    More to follow ..... IP and bandwidth need to have rules ....

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
    icon
    Hephaestus (profile), Aug 14th, 2009 @ 9:35pm

    Re: Off the subject... kind of .... broadband penetration...

    2)
    3)
    4)
    5)

    and six will be discussed later

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
    identicon
    Luci, Aug 15th, 2009 @ 4:48am

    Re: Totally OT

    From reading the article, that would be Karl Bode. Mike attributes his quotes, if you actually read.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
    identicon
    Ed C., Aug 15th, 2009 @ 8:41am

    Re: Off the subject... kind of .... broadband penetration...

    And how many people are silly enough to give their REAL address to online email services? Oh, right...never mind.

    The only way to get the data is to make it required and fineable for noncompliance, which would have to include falsifying data too.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
    identicon
    Educated Anonymous Coward, Aug 15th, 2009 @ 9:21am

    Re: No, You Are Wrong

    The government has not spent any of the $7.2 billion, it is still taking applications for the first round of funding. When it does grant approval for funding, information on all the grant recipients will be available through NTIA's website. The large telco/cable ops are not likely to get any of the stimulus funding as it is intended to subsidize unserved areas where it is not currently economically feasible to build broadband to because the population density is too low to support the investment; Qwest is the only large telco even rumored to be interested in applying, but it has not done so yet. The funding comes with lots of strings, so there is further disincentive to take the money.

    As far as building infrastructure in the public domain, be careful what you wish for; the governments who have used public funds to build "public broadband infrastructure" are the same ones who feel it is their right to regulate the content on that network, police for copyright, and spy on their citizens. The current Administration may have qualms about doing so, but it was not so long ago that we had a different Administration that had no such qualms, and that was when they did not even own the infrastructure (certain companies were complicit with government in its efforts while others told it to take a hike).

    As far as the article above, what I find perplexing is that the author seems to belive that there is one "consumer" view and that certain entities that claim to represent that "consumer view" indeed do so. Besides the 10% of the population that cannot access broadband, about 50% of who see consider broadband relevant to their lives and would adopt broadband, what exactly is it that consumers want that they are not getting? Is this all about the price of broadband? If it is, then what do the consumers want the FCC to do about price? It cannot give broadband away for free, just like the energy companies do not give electricity away for free even that is a far more essential service than broadband. If this is about speed, what app or service do you want to run that you cannot run with the speeds currently available? Based on my family's usage, we can run every app or service we want with the service we are getting from our cable broadband connection. And my provider has been increasing its basic speeds every year without charge, I assume to keep up with more bandwidth-intensive apps and services as they are developed.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 15th, 2009 @ 11:13am

    Re: Re: No, You Are Wrong

    "When it does grant approval for funding, information on all the grant recipients will be available through NTIA's website."

    I hope so.

    "The large telco/cable ops are not likely to get any of the stimulus funding"

    And why should I believe this, because you said so?

    "As far as building infrastructure in the public domain, be careful what you wish for; the governments who have used public funds to build "public broadband infrastructure" are the same ones who feel it is their right to regulate the content on that network, police for copyright, and spy on their citizens."

    A: Most of that was via networks ran by private entities so there doesn't seem to be a difference between whether the network is in the public domain or not

    B: I'm not saying that the government should run it, just that the government should give everyone the opportunity to provide broadband to anyone. If the government wants the information they would still have to either operate with private entities or do so illegally either way, so it seems to make no difference if the broadband infrastructure is in the public domain or not (or if they do it legally, via court orders, then it still makes no difference). Now you are simply resorting to baseless scare mongering to support your position.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 15th, 2009 @ 11:15am

    Re: Re: No, You Are Wrong

    "As far as the article above, what I find perplexing is that the author seems to belive that there is one "consumer" view and that certain entities that claim to represent that "consumer view" indeed do so."

    Almost everyone there seems to be industry reps, why should we believe these people in any way represent consumer views?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 15th, 2009 @ 11:19am

    Re: Re: No, You Are Wrong

    "As far as the article above, what I find perplexing is that the author seems to belive that there is one "consumer" view and that certain entities that claim to represent that "consumer view" indeed do so."

    No one said that there is only one consumer view, but the point is that consumer views and consumer groups are being ignored almost completely. Industry reps, instead, are the ones that are expected to represent consumer views and I see no reason to believe they will represent any views but the views that increase their personal profit margins.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 15th, 2009 @ 11:23am

    Re: Re: No, You Are Wrong

    "The large telco/cable ops are not likely to get any of the stimulus funding"

    You have given me no reason to believe this.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 15th, 2009 @ 11:36am

    Re: Re: No, You Are Wrong

    "The large telco/cable ops are not likely to get any of the stimulus funding"

    Not only have you given me no reason to believe this, there are many reasons (as shown on that site and many others and the many other dishonest things the government does, the list of those goes on and on) to believe otherwise.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 15th, 2009 @ 12:10pm

    BTW, one group I would really like to see involved in this is the EFF or some group like that (instead of just industry reps pretending to represent the consumer). Even the ACLU might be a decent group (though it's probably not their field of specialty).

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 16th, 2009 @ 7:56am

    Re: Re: No, You Are Wrong

    "When it does grant approval for funding, information on all the grant recipients will be available through NTIA's website."

    Considering that the NIH tells us how much grant money they give away and how many grants but they do not give us a list of exactly who gets what grants, I find this hard to believe.

    (ie: see)
    http://taggs.hhs.gov/AnnualReport/FY2008/discretionary/by_major_activity.cfm

    I think federal agencies only give as much information as they are required to by law and even then they try to interpret the law in ways that disfavor transparency as much as they can. I think one huge problem is that too many unelected officials (they're appointed by elected officials but they're not elected by the people) have too much control over law and much too often they stand to serve private interests at public expense (ie: the FDA, FCC, USPTO, NTIA, etc...). Ron Paul is trying to pass a bill to help alleviate the problem (The Congressional Responsibility and Accountability Act) but lets see how far it goes (while Ron Paul is a great public servant the fact of the matter is that we don't have enough people like him in power to make a big enough impact).

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28.  
    identicon
    anon, Aug 16th, 2009 @ 10:49am

    Re:

    because the politicians are owned and he is a representative of their true masters.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29.  
    icon
    johnney (profile), Aug 16th, 2009 @ 12:09pm

    It is true we need to move forward with an overall plan for a 'proper' networked infrastructure here in the US. What's also true is that the entities who either plan and or distribute said network should be at the table proposing strategies. Ideally, aforementioned 'entities' would ditribute said network to everyone equally based solely on demand. Who pays for this and who is 'in charge' are in truth, one & the same.
    Any imbalance will only be from a monetary standpoint, and not necessarily a user's.
    What we need to be mindful of is that the govt. and it's 'entities', as it were, will be the ones using the best connections running hardware we can only dream of. THAT is what I am afraid of.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30.  
    icon
    johnney (profile), Aug 16th, 2009 @ 12:12pm

    It is rediculous to think that the people who sit at the table are not well aware of the overall use of broadband by people all across America, and beyond.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Save me a cookie
  • Note: A CRLF will be replaced by a break tag (<br>), all other allowable HTML will remain intact
  • Allowed HTML Tags: <b> <i> <a> <em> <br> <strong> <blockquote> <hr> <tt>
Follow Techdirt
A word from our sponsors...
Essential Reading
Techdirt Reading List
Techdirt Insider Chat
A word from our sponsors...
Recent Stories
A word from our sponsors...

Close

Email This