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.