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FCC's "Exciting" Broadband Plans, Not So Exciting After All, Says Watchdog Group

by: KathyinBlacksburg

Wed Mar 17, 2010 at 11:26:44 AM EDT

Here we go again.  The cable layers and their  ditch-witch are just a block away.  It appears, one more time we will have to redo our lawn. Contractors will do their usual dig, fill (no smoothing), seed-and-straw toss.  And homeowners will take two seasons to get our lawns back as they were.  Even as I roll my eyes, I realize that upgrading the speed and quality of our service is long overdue.  And we are among the lucky ones here in Blacksburg.  At least we have "broadband."  But it usually falls short of "real" broadband speeds.  Many in rural Virginia don't have "high speed" at all.  Enter the FCC.  In its widely hyped announcement of expanded national broadband service, the FCC perhaps thought we'd cheer and go about our business.  

However, Neiman Watchdog of Harvard University cautions that the FCCs plans to improve this nation's broadband position is far less than it appears.  Here is just the teaser:

Bruce Kushnick writes that giant telecoms and cable companies -- and the lobbyists, think tanks and astroturf groups they fund -- have so corrupted the debate over broadband that what may look like progress actually amounts to small steps toward antiquated standards that taxpayers have already paid for many times over.
KathyinBlacksburg :: FCC's "Exciting" Broadband Plans, Not So Exciting After All, Says Watchdog Group
"How bad off are we right now?" asks Kushnick.

the current average US broadband speed, according to, is 5mbps down and 1mbps upload. That's 1/20th the download speed you can get in, say, Hong Kong, or Japan or France, and 1/100th  the upload speed. Today in Hong Kong 100mbps in both directions costs about $20 -- cheaper than US broadband by leaps and bounds.

But what's worse is that there is very limited competition.  Good luck trying to improve the situation when Verizon and ATT dominate much of the broadband market in many states.  (Perhaps ATT has been too busy building its spy-on-Americans network.)

Somehow other nation's have managed to overcome the supposed hurdles to fast and smooth service.  Kushnick points out that Hong Kong, Japan and France have speeds of 20 x what the average US "broadband" user has. And some US broadband companies have actively tried to slow some of us down further. Now that we pay ridiculously high charges for internet already, the FCC wants to charge us by adding broadband to the Universal Service Fund tax. For their negligence, the broadband companies thus get a bailout from us!

And even so, there is nothing to compel carriers to actually give all of America broadband, real broadband.  Though the FCC proposed 100 million homes getting 100 mbps, there are no teeth in the proposal.  

This will really gripe Americans: ATT wants to shut down the Public Switched Telephone Networks.  You know, the wiring to homes with homes with landlines.  (Unfortunately, I still depend on this because cell phone service in my neighborhood is spotty.)  And I might note that satellite TV hooks into phone lines for phone access too ppv, TV aller ID display, etc.

Kushnick cautions that this might remove all vestiges of regulation. And the swishing sound will be the flow of dollars out of our wallets even as service quality will become optional. Take a look at Kushnick's comments about ATTs upgrade efforts!  American already pay far too much of their household budgets on "communications."

Corporate interests, so-called think tanks in bed with corporations, and opponents of consumer protection have dominated what little debate has occurred thus far.  To illustrate, the FCC announced that Karen Strauss is now deputy chief of the Consumer and Governmental Affairs bureau.  But as Kushnick notes, she is also on the Board of Directors of the astroturf group Alliance for Public Technology.  It's just more business as usual.


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