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FU FCC, Part II

OK, so this FCC clampdown is not an entirely done deal…at least not in the legal sense.

Media coverage of this has conspicuously disappeared from many of the traditional outlets. I wonder if the fact that many of the news networks are owned by the very companies that stand to gain the most by a government sanctioned divided and closed Internet?

No, that wouldn’t seem right, right? Aren’t news companies supposed to serve as a checks and balance system for the benefit of the public?

Nonetheless, I wanted to address one thing that seems to be conspicuously absent from the discussion.

The physical infrastructure like coaxial cable and fiber optics…that sorta stuff.

Again, this shit is kind of complicated but mostly, it’s dull and boring, I get that. Try to muscle through because how this shakes out will have a profound impact on America’s small businesses and their ability to compete on a global level; and how you and I access and use the Internet.

wtfRight now, the speed at which American’s can download information from the Internet ranks 31st in the worldin the world.

Eastonia and Slovakia are faster than the country that invented the Internet. Yea, that’s right, Moldova has faster Interwebs (#16).

Upload speeds are even worse, we’re 42nd globally.

Lesotho and Belarus, and other countries I can neither pronounce nor find on a map, have faster upload speeds.

It’s not like the technology doesn’t exist for the United States to have a better download and upload speeds. It does.

Google Fiber is making some inroads (but at a snail’s pace) and Verizon FiOS was, but they stopped building out a fiber optics infrastructure in 2010 (it was too expensive for them).

So why have we fallen so far behind?

It’s simple. The ISP’s (like Comcast, Time Warner and AT&T) built out their coaxial cable infrastructure years ago. They spent tens, if not hundreds, of millions of dollars building out what was, at the time, state of the art technology to serve the expansion of cable television.

Then, less than 20 years later, this new technology comes along (Internet), the 1996 Telecommunications Act and then the broadband explosion; it was like the perfect trifecta.

Trying to understand, let alone explain, the 1996 Telecommunications Act is beyond my scope of intellectual prowess. I can tell you that, at its core, the act was created to foster competition.

Unfortunately, it didn’t. Through a series of collusive backroom deals, telecom and cable companies divided up markets amongst themselves without having to build out any new technology.

Basically, it is that very collusion that is allowing Comcast to look the public dead in the eye and say “What? We should be able to purchase Time Warner Cable, we don’t compete in any of the same markets.”

It’s true, they don’t…because they set it up that way.

When broadband technology became the norm for the Internet, cable providers (ISP’s) realized they already had an infrastructure in place with the coaxial cables they use to broadcast their cable video signals.

While other countries were taking advantage of new technologies, like fiber optic technology, to provide the necessary bandwidth; here in the states, the ISP’s here decided that building that technology out, while good for the consumer, was not cost-effective for the company. So they decided not to do that.

Surely, coaxial cables allowed for enough bandwidth to cram some more 1’s and 0’s in there. They did, and probably do, but as evidenced by the United States global ranking in upload and download speeds, it’s shortsighted.

Be that as it may, right now, as an open or “net neutral” environment, we are all accessing the Internet equally. However antiquated the technology, you, me, Netflix and Amazon, etc. are all accessing the Internet, as a whole, with the same bandwidth (admittedly, there is some throttling and Netflix’s purchase of tapping into the Comcast servers lessens this argument).

But here’s why a two tier Internet is bad. ISP’s will be able to partition off their cable infrastructure. It would be something like this:

future

If the corporations are ultimately successful in bitch slapping former telecom and cable industry lobby twat, and current FCC Chairman, Tom Wheeler, into shape ISP’s would be jamming those of us not in the fast lane into a smaller port of access to the Internet.

Given our corporatocracy, and Wheeler’s lobbying history, for all intents and purposes, this is a done deal.

Top Tier companies like Google, Netflix, Amazon, etc. can buy into the “fast lane” while the rest of us 1’s and 0’s are left trying to get though a much smaller hole…on an already antiquated infrastructure.

Remember how shitty your dial-up connection was? It’s going to be a lot like that…but worse…and more expensive.

Not only is it a shitty proposition, that benefits only a few large ISP’s, you’ll notice there is NO PLAN OR DISCUSSION AMONG CABLE COMPANIES OR TELECOM’S TO BUILD OUT A FASTER, MORE MODERN INFRASTRUCTURE. None.

That only compounds this epic mistake.

I readily admit this shit is arcane and any media outlet that actually covers it will either throw around a bunch of big fancy technical words that will make your eyes glaze over or they will make you think you’re an idiot for not understanding it. They may also make you feel like you should be supporting this because it is good for ‘merica and small businesses.

You’re not an idiot for not understanding it.
You’re an idiot for not caring about it, for not questioning it and thinking the FCC and the corporations have your best interest in mind.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • They plan to divide up the Internet into a “fast lane” and “other lane”. Most of us will fall into the “other lane” category.
  • There is no discussion about building out a better, faster infrastructure so there will be more of us in the “other lane” competing for a smaller portion of access…on an outdated technology.
  • It IS complicated, but you should take the time to try to learn about it because no single decision will have more of an impact on you.
  • Tom Wheeler is a former telecom and cable industry lobby knob. That does not bode well for citizens.
  • Media companies spent 250 million dollars in 2013 lobbying Washington.
  • The entire cost of all of this will eventually roll back to the consumers. So we’ll eventually be paying more for an even shittier service.
  • We are not even close to being technologically competitive on a global scale (ranking 31st in download speed and 42nd in upload speed).

This is bad. Very bad.

But there is hope. There are options. And believe it or not, it can be found locally. They’re called “muni networks” and are the perfect way to combat this. Local governments have a more vested interest in creating a better Internet than big companies.

Read this, The Wire Next Time by Susan Crawford. It’s worth your time.

FURTHER READING:

VICE: Former Comcast and Verizon Attorneys Now Manage the FCC and Are About to Kill the Internet

David Carr: New Challenges Chip Away at Cable’s Pillar of Profit