Why US Broadband Sucks

Much of the industrialized world has much better broadband service to homes and businesses than the US. But providing good broadband service is not necessarily in the interest of the major telecomm companies, like SBC and Comcast. Rolling out high speed lines costs money and requires making long-term investments in the future, rather than reaping monopoly profits right now.

Congress, the FCC and state legislatures have become so captured by these corporate giants that the companies nearly dictate most telecomm legislation and policy. Thus, the telecomm industry has gifted itself with reduced competition, a very limited requirement to open up lines, and exclusive franchises that allow monopoly-like strip mining for profits in local communities.

Salon features a concise overview of why and how US broadband infrastructure and policy suck, written by a Free Press research fellow. Here are some choice nuggets:

[T]he U.S. has a handful of unelected and unaccountable corporate giants that control our vital telecommunications infrastructure. This has led not only to a digital divide between the U.S. and the rest of the advanced world but to one inside the U.S. itself. …

Most of the countries surpassing the U.S. in broadband speed and availability have “open access” rules governing both their cable and DSL industries. Open access rules require the owner of a network to allow its competitors access to the network at wholesale prices. These rules usually apply to networks that are “natural monopolies” like telephone systems and railroads, and in order to ensure innovation among competitors, these provisions usually do not apply to newly built infrastructure. …

Notably, municipal networks are arising because of the failures of the incumbent providers. Without them, the U.S. will continue to fall behind the rest of the world in broadband technology.

Tangentially, it’s interesting to see that Free Press is now able to get an article placed in Salon, which is not exactly the New York Times, but nevertheless reaches a pretty intellectually elite audience.