When the cable industry started laying coaxial cable and TV deployments were just beginning, local franchise agreements often required that the cable operators evenly build out networks so that as many people as possible could get service. Those requirements are one of the only reasons millions of people outside of the biggest metropolitan areas even have the cable and DSL duopoly or monopoly they so enjoy today.
When the phone companies entered the TV business back around 2006
, AT&T and Verizon lobbyists went state-by-state convincing state lawmakers to pass franchise "reform." While some reform was absolutely needed (thanks largely to a smattering of greedy local governments abusing their authority in order to get paid), the telcos' version of reform involved not only gutting most even build out requirements -- but in places like Wisconsin gutting all consumer protections
(and even in some cases eminent domain rights) entirely. Obviously making state regulators toothless benefited cable companies too.
Fast forward a few years and there's obviously more than a few TV and broadband landline connection gaps, despite tens of billions in entirely-unaccountable subsidies
thrown at cable and phone companies to ensure these gaps didn't exist. Combined with the rise of Google Fiber and the somewhat theatrical industry fiber to the press release response
, suddenly cherry picking your broadband deployments has become fashionable, creating a huge new chasm between broadband haves and broadband have-nots, especially when it comes to faster services (three quarters of the country has no
competitive choice at speeds faster than 25 Mbps).
While both politicians and industry pay a lot of lip service to shoring up these gaps, the reality is that nobody really wants to fix them, and nobody wants to audit the carriers' deep history of subsidies. When many broadband have-nots then decide that they'd like to join the modern era and get wired, they often wind up being told they have to foot the often over-inflated bill. As Ars Technica recently explored
, that bill can be almost comical -- such as $20,000 to run coax a third of a mile:
"Time Warner Cable’s (TWC) lines are a third of a mile from Walser’s house, and the company has received more than $10 million in state funding to bring broadband to underserved portions of New York over the past two years. But the company (which will be purchased by Comcast if the government approves the merger) told Walser they won’t do the construction unless he pays more than $20,000. That’s just to reimburse TWC for its troubles—the monthly access bill would be on top of that."
Because Time Warner Cable has no competition at those locations, the company will simply abuse their monopoly position and charge an obscene monthly rate for service on top of that. Considering the billions that telecom companies received to shore up service over the last twenty years (and again, nobody in the history of telecom regulation has ever bothered to do an audit), that's painfully obscene -- and it's a story I've personally seen repeated thousands of times over. Worse perhaps, Time Warner Cable, like so many of these companies, has worked tirelessly to pass state level laws that restrict these communities from building their own broadband
-- even in locations they refuse to connect.
In other words, taxpayers got to pay billions in subsidies, then get to pay an arm and a leg a second time just to be held hostage by a company that repeatedly makes it very clear
it hates their guts
. When they decide to do something about it themselves, they run into state laws prohibiting their right to improve their own area's infrastructure. Yet we're told time and time again
by the broadband industry that it's not only immensely competitive, but is a shining beacon to the rest of the world for technology innovation, creativity and government policy.