There is a huge injustice going on right now centered around something that has become a necessity in modern culture- the internet. Im not talking about SOPA or the fast and slow lane debates (that in their own individual rights are hugely important), but before we can even get to that, we need to address the insanity that is going on with how we get our service, and the absurdity that is happening now with laws that allow telco monopolies.
Right now, I’m renovating my headquarters known as the SKEE Lodge in Hollywood. We are smack dab in the center of the city- literally and figuratively- yet our internet speed is maxed out at a mediocre connection speed. This isn’t because we don’t want to pay more, but because we are limited in whats available. To show you how ridiculous the monopolies work, I have the same exact provider and service at home- in fact, my home connection is double the download speed, and i pay $60 a month for it. For half the speed at my office i pay nearly $500 a month for it, just because I am at a “business address,” and our service provider knows how crucial the internet is for our company. The apartments on the other side of the parking lot- less than 10 feet away, get the same exact service from the same provider for nearly 1/10th the cost. The reason? because the telcos can get away with it as we have no where else to turn.
Now thats bad, but its not even the worst thing. Because of monopolies, one service provider typically controls an entire city or district, and no competition can legally come in. What does this mean? No options, and no incentive for them to improve. Despite being by far the number one tech country in the world and inventing the internet, the USA is ranked 31st in internet speed.
Companies like Google Fiber are championing this revolution stateside and one of the few pushing for advancement, but face battles in each city as old telecom monopolies are using their power to keep them out. and they are winning. They are one of the leading lobbyist groups on Capital Hill and have many of our politicians in pocket. This is how they get away with constantly being ranked as the most hated companies in the country with notoriously awful customer service- because they don’t have to improve.
Don’t think competion really helps? When Google announced its fiber plans for Austin, multiple providers stepped in to compete, offering even faster speeds for cheaper. Point proved: if there is competition, there is improvement. If not, they can reign free and stop innovating while charging as much as they want. This is the definition of a monopoly, and it needs to change. Its affecting cities too- i know someone who moved from Los Angeles to Kansas City specifically because of the internet speeds- they are sacrificing palm trees for blizzards just because of the internet!
Which brings me back to my story- because I own a digital company, we need much faster internet than the average. Our service provider doesn’t provide fiber in our area, so I had to look outside for another option. What i found was jaw dropping. To lay fiber on our own would cost tens of thousands of dollars, take over 6 months to get done, and cost over three thousand dollars per month! Eventually we found a solution using microwave service, a relatively new technology where we actually get licensed airspace from the FCC to connect at high speeds, but still have to pay several thousand dollars a month for the service- a service thats not even as good as one that someone in Provo, Utah, where Google Fiber is available, pays sixty dollars per month for. This is clearly insane.
Its time we wake up. The internet has become a basic need and right in a modern civilized country like the US, similar to water and electricity. Don’t believe me? Look at how much we’ve accomplished in the last decade compared to any other time in human history becasue of the internet. It isn’t a luxury like cable tv anymore, but something that doctors, banks, law enforcement and nearly every element of our society relies on 24/7… something that has started revolutions like what we saw in Egypt. In fact, you could argue that the Internet is the key to our modern world. It is time for us to realize that we are being to taken advantage of and demand Congress does something about these monopolies, just like they did with the railroad, telephone, and other industries in the past centuries. Its time for them to stop holding us back and emancipate the internet.