Coronavirus Telecommuting To Further Highlight Shoddy US Telecom Market

from the completely-unprepared dept

To be clear, there are going to be layers of life and death dysfunction that the Coronavirus shines a bright spotlight on, most notable being a shaky US healthcare system and incompetent government leadership. But the outbreak and response is also going to shine a bright light on the broken US telecom market, and the millions of Americans that won’t be able to effectively telecommute in a crisis.

We’ve noted time and time again how a lack of competition in the US broadband market means consumers pay some of the highest prices in the developed world for broadband that usually ranks somewhere in the middle of the pack. While we talk a lot about this problem, few actually do much about it. Similarly, few really have noticed how as US telcos effectively give up on upgrading antiquated DSL lines, they’re giving cable giants like Comcast even bigger monopolies across vast swaths of America. In turn, those cable giants are facing less incentive than ever to improve customer service, upgrade rural networks, or compete on price.

With little competition and federal regulators that are little more than a rubber stamp to their every monopolistic whim, these companies have also been given a green light to gouge US consumers with usage caps and overage fees. Worse, a recent report suggested that 40 million Americans can’t get broadband at all, nearly double FCC estimates. The Trump administration and FCC’s response to this problem so far has been to blow sweet kisses at the nation’s biggest telecom providers in the form of regulatory favors, massive tax breaks for doing nothing, and a lot of overheated rhetoric.

This has always been a problem, but as FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel notes, it’s going to become a more obvious problem as millions of Americans are suddenly asked to work (and learn) from home to avoid spreading the virus further and faster:

While the overlaid teleconferencing technology has come a long way in recent years, millions of Americans will need to rely on expensive, slow, capped broadband that comes with what is statistically some of the worst customer service and satisfaction rates of any industry in America. Assuming these Americans have the luxury of working from home at all, many will be forced to rely on throttled, capped, and otherwise restricted cellular and satellite connections, since incumbents have effectively frozen expansion into rural markets, and fought tooth and nail against communities building their own, better networks.

While (as usual) this won’t be as big of a problem for the white and affluent (many of whom have long insisted this isn’t a big deal), it’s going to be a particular problem for the minority, tribal, and low income communities that have been overlooked for decades. Especially as a growing number of colleges and schools try to shift the entirety of their workload online. It’s a problem America has historically found relatively easy to ignore. And while broadband is likely to be the least of our issues over the next few months, recommending that millions of Americans work and learn from home will make ignoring that problem exponentially more difficult.

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Comments on “Coronavirus Telecommuting To Further Highlight Shoddy US Telecom Market”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Good URL for comparison of US telecom service with foreigner

Actually getting that data would probably be a challenge.. the telecoms don’t make it easy to get pricing, and it can vary heavily by market.. the few markets where there is competition they make half-hearted attempts to compete on price.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Good URL for comparison of US telecom service with forei

You don’t get it from the telcos, you poll the customers to find out how much they’re paying for different types of services (fixed broadband, mobile telephone, etc.). Here’s a report from Canada’s regulator and a news story.

Given Karl’s frequent statements to the effect that Americans are getting screwed, I agree that it would be great to collect some hard data for comparison. Anyone writing a story on the subject would want to link to it.

tom (profile) says:

It isn’t just the end user service that will be a problem. That corporate gig fiber connection will probably slow to a crawl when several hundred employees try to connect via VPN. And this assumes the company had the forethought to purchase and configure a device capable of handling that many VPN connections at once.

A lot of VPN gizmos have license fees based on allowable connections. If only 10% of your employees are in the field at any one time, why pay for more VPN slots? This problem will likely only be discovered when some poor IT slob still at work has to track down why so many folks can’t connect. Of course, the accounting folks needed to process the PO for the license increase will all be home unable to connect….

There will likely be a short term market opportunity for disaster preparedness planning once this virus thing passes.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Sign me up!

A restaurant opened in my area just under a month ago. Despite gaining some good early traction their business has dropped by over 80% in the last week or so as people get scared to go out in public. As this is unlikely to stop in the next month or two that poor business will probably die before it had a chance to grow.

Waffle House may decide to close its doors for a few weeks (unlikely) but at least you’ll have a job to return to when it reopens.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Sign me up!

True, and this affects a lot more than only restaurant workers. Schools, shipping, service industries, airlines and lots more are closing down (temporarily or permanently) or seeing such a diminished business that they’re letting people go. Though most salaried jobs are safe for now there are a lot of hourly workers in these suffering businesses. They’re the ones who will bear the brunt of this. Low-wage hourly workers are almost better off getting laid off than being out of work for 2 months; At least then they could collect unemployment benefits.

This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Sign me up!

Spoken like a perfect globalist Democrat schill. Isn’t it ironically perfect that Hollywood, the educational establishment, and the “totally sold out” American sports industry will suffer the most damage? Perfection, God’s hand in action that we all can witness to.


Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Sign me up!

Well, the Chinese (who sponsor his very web site) are exposed, the Hollywood elite are set to lose a LOT, the NBA will soon be broke, and Academia is without income or future.


In the future, we will call this period the corona BOOM, like, everyone will stay home and procreate instead of throwing more money at China. BOOM. More new Americans.

R.oG.S says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Sign me up!

Um, evidence that TD is Chinese supported?

If you had said "Communist and Jewish tribal-religious supported" I would STFU, because you would be correct.

Generally, most Chinese dont give a fuck about TD, until I post. Then, it becomes national narrative, lol.

No kidding.

And really: Dear Americans: STOP PROCREATING! Its provably bad for the environment.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:6 Sign me up!

Yes, the evidence is overwhelmingly obvious. Techdirt supports weakening or ending copyright protection. Who benefits? The Chinese. Who suffers? American authors. Techdirt supports ending patent protection and open sourcing everything. Who benefits? The Chinese. Who suffers? American inventors. Techdirt frequently paints the honorable American police force as criminal, promoting public unrest and distrust. Who benefits? The Chinese. Who suffers? Law abiding American citizens. The list goes on and on. Techdirt is an ideological infection in the media, for sure the Chinese are behind it, one way or another.

And, I had a dream that Masnick’s wife actually was a doctor in the Wuhan virus factory. She’s Chinese too, right? I heard that somewhere, maybe from Chelsea Manning (is she dead?)

Think about it! Ideological infection! Virus pandemic! The CHINESE! Techdirt! It all fits!

Totally Tone Deaf says:

Here in China, we must now use Wechats app, to signify to the authorities (gatekeepers) that we are well/not sick when we enter/exit public places like subways/malls/ our homes .

We show them our Wechat .app with a "health score" attached to Weixin, and then, they allow us through gates, and portals.

No conspirqacy here at all about " the mark of the beast" on our foreheads-its on our phones now!

Thanks, Queen Esther! How did that slaughter work out for you and yours? ( I seem to remember you killing off some Ethiopians and their cows with no mercy)

Thanks, Queen Esther!

(you pig-fucking whore)

Anonymous Coward says:

The case of the Dsappearing Caps

How can AT&T, Comcast and TMobile suddenly remove data caps now without any issues when the reason they argued for data caps is because they can’t provide unlimited data because the networks can’t handle it? I am so confused

Won’t this "generous" act also end up proving that caps and data limits are not necessary?

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