Comcast's Top Lobbyist Pens Editorial To Remind Americans That US Broadband Service Is Awesome
from the statistics-currently-enjoying-a-deep-tissue-massage dept
We live in a nation of wondrous technological advancement, where our average broadband speed and super low prices are the envy of the world, And if Google shows up to throw fiber around, the local citizenry simply shrugs its shoulders in indifference. Life is good… especially if you’re paid to believe it is.
Karl Bode at Broadband Reports points us in the direction of a ridiculous “op-ed” piece written for the Philadelphia Inquirer by David Cohen, lobbyist and policy man for Comcast. It’s filled with relentless, self-serving optimism and features Cohen’s miraculous ability to take mediocre broadband statistics and transform them into “proof” of American superiority.
After cherry picking and massaging statistics to an almost painful degree, Cohen takes a little shot at Google Fiber, insisting that users don’t really need 1 Gbps.
“For some, the discussion about the broadband Internet seems to begin and end on the issue of “gigabit” access. To be sure, a one-gig connection has value, especially for those who have invested in “inside” networks and equipment to handle that 1-gigabit firehose of data.
The issue with such speed is really more about demand than supply. Our business customers can already order 10-gig connections. Most websites can’t deliver content as fast as current networks move, and most U.S. homes have routers that can’t support the speed already available to the home. As consumer demand grows for faster speeds, a competitive marketplace of wired and wireless broadband providers will be ready to serve it.”
Consumers are demanding faster speeds, though. This is why services like Google Fiber
are objects of lust and desire interest them. Sure, many broadband companies offer higher speed connections, but at very prohibitive prices. When someone like Google comes along and offers a gigabit connection for $30/month, it’s delivering what consumers actually want: higher speeds and lower prices. To date, broadband providers are only willing to give consumers either/or — never both. (Additionally, service providers like Comcast frequently throw data caps into the mix, which nullifies the positive aspects of a speed boost. Cohen’s piece never mentions data caps or their effect on consumer behavior — both in terms of limiting consumption and increasing costs.)
Cohen claims that 82% of Americans have access to wired high-speed Internet access of speeds exceeding 100 Mbps. But these services, provided in 85% of the country by only the local cable incumbent (the large cable companies never enter each others’ territories, and Verizon FiOS is available to just 15% of the country) are extraordinarily expensive: Comcast charges $114.95 per month for 105 Mbps download services. In Seoul, you can get symmetrical 100 Mbps (equal upload and download) access for $30/month, and there are three or four competitive choices.
So, it’s not really a question of need. Most consumers won’t fully utilize a gigabit connection. But, they will have faster service at a lower price, and that’s what really matters. What Google’s entrance into the market does is add some real competition, rather than the cooperation and collusion that has masqueraded for years as “competition.”
By focusing on whether you need 1 Gbps, companies like Time Warner Cable and Comcast hope to steer the conversation away from how a lack of competition allows them to offer slow speeds and ever-higher prices (or the fact they’re being outclassed in their own industry by a search engine)…
If the United States leads in anything in the broadband sector — it’s the use of denial and distortion by those with a vested interest in protecting the status quo. If you can convince people that everything is fine, nobody tries to fix things and your profit margins as a predatory, lumbering duopoly benefiting from regulatory capture remain high. You can legitimately argue that things are improving in many regions — but to insist the United States is the global broadband leader is an obnoxious level of hubris, even for Comcast.
Cohen’s article paints a broadband picture so rosy one almost expects a “sponsored content” banner to be flying above it. He even takes a moment towards the end to bash the broadband industry’s (many) critics.
Today there is a cottage industry of critics who always want to tell us that our broadband Internet is not fast enough or satisfactory for one reason or another. The reality is that the United States is leading the way in speed, reach, and access – and doing so in a vast, rural nation that poses logistical connectivity challenges unlike any other country.
As Bode pointed out, a strain of hubris runs through Cohen’s piece, but here it comes to a head. Comcast itself has MANY critics but Cohen acts as though the negative attention is undeserved. This “cottage industry” exists in part to battle the kind of misinformation Cohen and his cohorts portray as “facts.” His attempt to belittle broadband critics as some sort of self-interested fringe “industry” is where his hubris comes to a head. It’s obviously more than that if Cohen feels the need to tout his industry’s “stellar” service via a major newspaper.