Open Networks & Get the Money Back: Part of the Net Neutrality Solution.
I added the part about “Open Networks” to this Ro Khanna diagram of Net Neutrality. Open Networks is really the issue to be dealt with. We paid for the networks to be built and these networks, (besides being fiber to the home, which never showed up in most places) were also supposed to be “open networks” so that we, the Public, could select the ISP or the broadband provider or phone or cable TV provider… Competition, what a thought.
What about wireless and 5G and… I’ll get to that.
America had competition for these services — for a moment. The Telecom Act of 1996 opened the state utility networks to competitors as the incumbent phone companies had monopoly control over the wires. (These are now AT&T, Verizon and CenturyLink.) And this was not done for free. The incumbents would be allowed to enter all of the other lines of business, including long distance, (which was very profitable).
And right after the companies got what they wanted, (circa 2001) they whispered in FCC Republican Chairman Mike Powell’s ear (now the head of the cable association) and, like a delicate flower, the FCC stepped on competition and closed the networks. About 7,000 small ISP companies who were handling the majority of ISP customers in America, were killed off. AT&T (the previous version) and MCI were the 2 largest competitors for phone and broadband and they were sold off to SBC (who changed their name to AT&T) and Verizon took over MCI. Meanwhile, the cable companies were never really opened and just sat back …
And this destruction of competition was accomplished by combining the broadband and internet service and classifying them as one blob, an “information” service, removing Title II from broadband. It is identical to the model FCC Chairman Pai has returned to in 2017. Changing the classification of broadband also blocked our right to open networks as told by the Telecom Act.
Net Neutrality was a band-aid so that the large companies would ‘place nice’. And ironically, while there is a great deal of fuss at this current juncture about Net Neutrality, the previous FCC did NOT open the networks to competition and did not fix most of the underlying issues; to wonkish to discuss here.
Moreover, there has been a back-door deal of sorts; AT&T and Verizon would take over wireless and business services using the utility networks and charging local utility customers, while the cable companies would sell their wireless spectrum to Verizon and would keep cable TV; they’d split ISP and broadband services. And, Verizon also got to bundle their wireless with the cable package and the current cable wireless plans include working with Verizon.
And Wireless? Most of the construction budgets for Verizon and AT&T Wireless have been dumped into the state utility and are part of the wire line budgets. This is instead of upgrading the cities and maintaining and upgrading the deteriorating copper networks, or bringing in direct cable TV and high speed broadband competition, not just in selected areas.
Ironically, almost all wireless requires a wire. The call or video goes from the mobile device to a cell site and it is attached to a wire — even the fabled 5G, which only has an estimated range of 1–3 city blocks. For it to work, they have to put wires everywhere…just not to homes or businesses.
No competition has meant we get slower speeds for more money as well as no choice; and let’s screw the rural areas and low income families who end up paying extra for services they never got and will never get.
Aunt Ethel is spinning in her grave. She was appalled when I told her the parts of the tale I knew a few decades ago. Now, under this FCC, it is, well, you know — it sucks.
So, it is time to “open the networks” and get the money back, right? — This is part of a solution for Net Neutrality but more importantly what needs to happen next in America.
And we do have a plan. For those who actually want facts — including the full history of the rise and fall of competition in the US, read: (FREE PDF) “The Book of Broken Promises: $400 Billion Broadband Scandal & Free the Net”.