Support For Community Broadband Could Be On Chopping Block As 'Bipartisan Broadband Negotiations' Continue

from the concessions-only-go-one-direction dept

We’ve already noted how the Biden broadband plan was good, but arguably vague. As in, the outline proclaims that the government will boost competition and lower prices, but it doesn’t actually get at all specific about how it actually hopes to do that. For example the plan proposes providing more support for community broadband, but with 17 ISP-backed state laws prohibiting such efforts (and new ones popping up in states like Ohio), it’s not clear what that support will actually look like.

Telecom giants like Comcast and AT&T have been relentlessly lobbying both parties. They generally want one thing: more subsidies thrown their direction to fill in the coverage gaps they should have shored up a decade ago, and less money thrown at generating competition across their existing footprints. 83 million Americans live under a broadband monopoly, and incumbents spend countless billable hours covertly working to protect this profitable dysfunction.

As a result, the scope of the Biden broadband plan (and the infrastructure proposal) continue to shrink. The $100 billion plan is now a $65 billion plan, and it seems fairly likely that many of the restrictions AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast have been gunning for will make their way into any final proposal. It’s also pretty unlikely Republicans, who consistently try to ban communities from building better, faster broadband networks, will support community broadband:

“Congressional Republicans have tried to ban municipal broadband nationwide, so it’s highly unlikely that they would have agreed to Biden’s stated goal of giving public networks priority over private ISPs in the next big round of government subsidies.”

When it comes to broadband policy, what’s often passed as “concession and compromise for the sake of bipartisanship” isn’t actually that. In reality it’s usually just select Democrats and Republicans, prodded by AT&T and Comcast to weaken proposal language, pretending their opposition is due to being principled spendthrifts. But the same politicians who don’t want to spend money on broadband now, saw no problem with throwing billions in tax breaks at these same companies for absolutely no reason or beneficial outcome. So there’s no logic to much of this stuff, but we like to pretend otherwise.

It has to be made clear that this country has thrown untold billions in subsidies, tax breaks, and regulatory favors at regional monopolies for networks that are routinely half completed. And notice that when there are “concessions” bandied about, they almost uniformly only seem to go one direction: in the direction of what’s beneficial to regional telecom monopolies not coincidentally tethered to our intelligence-gathering apparatus. It’s a relentless, corrupted process, all covered up by ambiguous and breathless political support for “fixing the digital divide.”

Not to be too cynical; there’s still some notable improvements that could be done with the reconciliation process and some grit. But with broadband, generally the outcome of “bipartisan compromise” is almost always immense fecklessness. As in, a broadband plan that talks a lot about “curing the digital divide” and the “miracle of 5G,” then just throws yet more poorly tracked subsidies at entrenched broadband monopolies. All while refusing to do much to tackle the increasingly obvious reason US broadband remains mired in mediocrity: regional monopolization and corruption.

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Comments on “Support For Community Broadband Could Be On Chopping Block As 'Bipartisan Broadband Negotiations' Continue”

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That One Guy (profile) says:

'This has repeatedly failed, guess we need to try even harder!'

Community broadband efforts are massive money sinks that do nothing but waste taxpayer dollars on half-baked rollouts that never provide what was promised, so it’s no wonder the totally-not corrupt politicians are so vehemently against them. Now giving huge piles of money to major ISP’s on the other hand is always productive[1], they always deliver[2] and make good use of any and all taxpayer money funneled their way[3], and on the rare occasions when it might appear that they aren’t dedicating 110% of their focus on making the customer experience the best it can be that’s just because they need just a little bit more money[4]!

[1] for company profits
[2] just ask them, no you can’t see the verifiable data that’s private
[3] to pad exec bonuses and buy a few politicians.
[4] roughly ‘all of it’ should do the trick

ECA (profile) says:

Why, again.

Does a bunch of rich politicians, Think throwing money at things SOLVE IT?
Anyone remember that Money from the gov. tends to be tax free?

Until you do it yourself, NOTHING will get done.
So what are we going to do?
Cancel every contract created in the last 20-30 years from the major players?
Reverse every State law that has Favoritism to any group?
Tell all of the telecom industry that they are Now to let ANY service use their Last mile lines?
But, who is going to Install the lines? These folks are bill collectors, they dont know how to, would pay others to do the work.
Giving money to the Wrong side of the Problem.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Thad (profile) says:

Bears noting, too, that the bipartisan bill is essentially theater, a photo op so that Manchin and Sinema can feel important, and the Democrats are planning to pass a second infrastructure bill on a party-line reconciliation vote.

Doesn’t mean that bill will have community broadband, either. But it doesn’t mean it won’t.

Call your senators. Especially Manchin and Sinema. Even if, speaking from experience, calling Sinema is no more productive, and significantly more frustrating, than talking to a brick wall.

Rekrul says:

Democrats: We want a big bold package! $20 billion.

Republicans: No, you need to compromise in the name of bipartisanship. We’ll agree to $3 billion.

Democrats: How about $15 billion.

Republicans: No, $3 billion.

Democrats: $10 billion?

Republicans: $3 billion!

Democrats: OK, $3 billion.

Republicans: Did we say $3 billion? We meant $2 billion.

Democrats: $2 billion?!! That’s nowhere near enough!

Republicans: Compromise!

Democrats: OK, $2 billion.

Republicans: See, I knew we could come to a bipartisan deal that both sides would agree on!

Democrats: Huh?

Republicans: Hey people, look at the fantastic deal we negotiated for you. We’re so happy to have the democrats see reason and agree to this completely equitable compromise.

Rekrul says:

Re: Re: Re:

It would be so very nice if the democrats would at some point catch on to the ‘republican compromise’ trick and stop falling for it…

Watching democrats deal with republicans is like watching a game of Rock, Paper, Scissors, where the first guy chooses one of the three and the second just punches him in the face and declares himself the winner. Then he asks the first guy if he wants to play again, and the first guy agrees, with exactly the same results.

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