How The FCC Has Failed To Take On The Real Broadband Issue: Competition… And Why
from the follow-the-money dept
Way back in 2005, we pointed out that all of these fights and discussions about “network neutrality” were missing the point. They were fighting a symptom, not a disease. The real problem in the US is the lack of competition in the marketplace for broadband. Despite the twists and turns industry lobbyists will claim, true competition just isn’t there, and the FCC has done nothing to address that (even though, its own “reclassification” plans earlier this decade in large part created the problem). The current flare up about net neutrality has again been a silly fight that we’ve barely even covered, because none of it addresses that lack of competition.
Finally, some are noticing. Scientific American has an article pointing out that other countries have a lot faster speeds, at a lot lower costs — and the key point is that they have a lot more competition:
Phone companies have to compete for your business. Even though there may be just one telephone jack in your home, you can purchase service from any one of a number of different long-distance providers. Not so for broadband Internet. Here consumers generally have just two choices: the cable company, which sends data through the same lines used to deliver television signals, and the phone company, which uses older telephone lines and hence can only offer slower service.
The same is not true in Japan, Britain and the rest of the rich world. In such countries, the company that owns the physical infrastructure must sell access to independent providers on a wholesale market. Want high-speed Internet? You can choose from multiple companies, each of which has to compete on price and service. The only exceptions to this policy in the whole of the 32-nation Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development are the U.S., Mexico and the Slovak Republic, although the Slovaks have recently begun to open up their lines.
The article’s authors complain that in the fight over net neutrality, the FCC has carefully avoided tackling this issue, and suggests it may be because of the political power of AT&T and Comcast. Thankfully, Broadband Reports drives home the point of why politicians won’t take on AT&T:
Some (like plan architect Blair Levin) will tell you the FCC simply didn’t want a legal battle and that the die had already been cast. On the other hand, Levin and company didn’t even bother to try. When a company like AT&T is not only the biggest campaign contributor in any sector and an integral part of your country’s sometimes legal intelligence gathering operations, there’s not a lot of people in DC rushing to stand up to them.
This is really disappointing. The whole net neutrality battle has been a silly side show while the rest of our broadband infrastructure has suffered. It’s time we had real leadership in our government that got past the interests of one big company — but that seems unlikely to happen any time soon.