We have previously discussed how the United States lags behind many countries in the speed and availability of high-speed Internet. As noted earlier, this is due primarily to the powerful lobby in Washington and members who do their bidding in Congress to allow certain companies to control and profit off of such access. The U.S. cable industry and its lobbyists however have been careful to stay out of the public eye to protect their income and the members that they use in Congress. Now, however, the industry has made a rare play in the open. The industry is moving to block plans in Chattanooga, Tennessee and Wilson, North Carolina to offer high-speed internet services to their citizens. Lawyers and lobbyists for USTelecom, which represents cable giants Comcast, Time Warner and others, have mobilized to stop this trend where municipalities have responded to the demand of their citizens for such access. In the world of Washington lobbying, the slowest in this field has continued to win the race. While slow in service, our telecom companies are fast in making friends in Congress.
USTelecom has actually argued that it is merely trying to protect consumers from bad internet connections by forcing them to buy access from it: “The success of public broadband is a mixed record, with numerous examples of failures. With state taxpayers on the financial hook when a municipal broadband network goes under, it is entirely reasonable for state legislatures to be cautious in limiting or even prohibiting that activity.” By the way, Chattanooga offers customers access to speeds of 1 gigabit per second – about 50 times faster than the US average. The service, provided by municipally owned EPB, is now petitioning the FCC to expand its territory. Comcast and others have previously tried to use lawsuits and lobbyists to block such efforts.
I fail to see why a major developed nation like the United States does not offer free high-speed Internet and wi-fi access in the same way that it supplies actual superhighways. This is the key to the modern economy and yet we are allowing companies to manipulate speeds to profiteer at the cost of economic growth.
In publications, USTelecom is calling for the Commission and possibly Congress to preempt such efforts and cut off such access to consumers. If history is any measure, the well-healed telecom lobbyists will have little problem in getting members to listen to their plight.
By the way, we rank 31st in the world thanks to our friends in the Telecom industry and their friends in Congress.
The question is whether the public will finally wise up and demand that this stranglehold by USTelecom be taken from their virtual throats.