Tag: "monopoly"

Posted June 19, 2018 by lgonzalez

As of June 11th, federal network neutrality protections formally expired, thanks to Chairman Ajit Pai and the other Republican Commissioners at the FCC. In the months leading up to the vote, Pai has continued to press the talking point that the market will protect consumers. Now is a good time to pull out our infographic from last year, "The Market Has Spoken. The Market Is Broken," to remind Chairman Pai that a broken market isn’t much protection.

Is a Broken Market Able to Protect Anyone?

If people Americans aren’t satisfied with their current ISP, they should just switch, right? That’s why we have a competitive market — so subscribers who are unhappy with one Internet service can switch to another, right? Sounds great, but when there is no competition where you live, “you’ll take what you git and you won’t throw a fit.” At least, that’s what monopoly providers expect.

Our infographic addresses national ISPs that deliver services in both urban and rural areas. Time and again, consumers report that they’re dissatisfied with companies such as Comcast, AT&T, and CenturyLink, but with no options in many areas, there is no recourse. Now that we know approximately 177 million Americans live under the shadow of ISPs that willingly offend network neutrality policies, the faulty market is a more important issue than ever.

National ISPs know the monumental task ahead of new entrants, but also know that if subscribers get a taste for something better, big companies will lose their advantage and subscribership. In order to keep their position at the top of the heap, they invest millions of dollars each year into lobbying at the state and federal level. By advancing legislation that effectively blocks smaller players and municipalities from developing new and better services, Comcast, AT&T, and others can maintain their monopolies.

Our infographic looks at some hard numbers and offers examples of solutions. When communities find a way to get past the big telecom and cable industry stranglehold, they can thrive with local control and accountability.

Check out a larger image here.

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Posted May 4, 2018 by lgonzalez

At this year's Broadband Communities Summit in Austin, Texas, the Coalition for Local Internet Choice (CLIC) hosted a special program on April 30th. As part of the program, Blair Levin presented the keynote address. His comments focused on the process used by the FCC's Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee (BDAC) as they examine connectivity in the U.S. and make recommendations on the best ways to expand deployment.

Levin is a strong, open minded advocate for universal broadband access. He's currently Non-Resident Senior Fellow from the Metropolitan Policy Project at the Brookings Institution, but he's also Executive Director of GigU and advises both private and public organizations. Levin has held past stints at the Aspen Institute and the FCC where he oversaw the development of the National Broadband Plan; he's filled many other roles throughout his career. Levin's many years in public, private, and academic sectors have given him experience and an understanding of a wide range of challenges. He’s also obtained a keen insight into possible outcomes. In his keynote address, Levin predicted that the current BDAC process needs to be improved or wealth will find its way to private enterprises with nothing to gain for the public.

In his speech, Levin noted his own experiences with both local and federal governments and that the former were typically “responsive, pro-active, effective and respected in building communities that improve the lives of their residents.” He goes on to state that he believes that local governments need more authority and freedom if we are to move the country forward.

Levin believes that the BDAC is a good idea — bringing multiple stakeholders in the conversation on how we can deploy broadband faster in the U.S. After all, whether we rely more on wireless solutions or FTTP, we need to deploy more fiber and do it faster and more efficiently. He also believes that it’s important to achieve a balance when considering best practices due to the intimidating economics of network deployment. He also goes on to note that there has been some value achieved from BDAC, including the recommendation that states adopt one touch make ready policies.

In his speech, Levin addressed in detail what he...

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Posted April 25, 2018 by lgonzalez

Everybody likes to watch a good film and if it involves drama, government at its highest level, and the deep pockets of corporate America, there's sure to be intrigue. We've found an independent film project that people interested in telecommunications policy and the Internet should consider backing. "The Network," a documedia project directed by Fred Johnson will take a look at how the Internet has come to be controlled by only a small number of large and powerful corporate entities.

There are only a few days left to contribute to the IndieGoGo account so this project can move forward and we encourage you to consider adding "independent film producer" to your resume. We occasionally produce videos and have worked with Fred, so we know that he is committed to a quality result. And, hey, a movie about Internet policy? How cool is that, amIright?

And check out this cool trailer!

From Fred:

We have interviews lined up with former FCC Commissioners, Nick Johnson and Michael Copps, former FCC Special Counsel Gigi Sohn, writer and professor, Fred Turner, author of From Counterculture to Cyberculture and The Democratic Surround, and activist Anthony Riddle, Senior VP of Community Media, BRIC TV, Brooklyn. More to come.

The Trump Federal Communications Commission’s decision to do away with Net Neutrality protections makes it very clear we are in the midst of real crisis in U.S. communications policy: the underlying public interest agreements between the public, government and U.S. commercial communications corporations have broken down. The Facebook hearings in Congress marked the moment when the failed free market communications policies of the last 4 decades have revealed their ultimate logic: we now have monopoly social media platforms surveilling our networks, and unregulated monopolies (that are really utilities) selling us overpriced access to our networks. With no government oversight of any significance.

I know you are probably thinking we are knee deep in crises right now, but, if we can't find a way to control our communications infrastructure as a utility, it's going to be far more...

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Posted January 30, 2018 by lgonzalez

Suddenlink passed up the opportunity to offer connectivity in Pinetops, North Carolina, for years until now. About a year after a bill in the General Assembly gave nearby Wilson’s municipal network the ability to serve the tiny community, Suddenlink is taking advantage of the law to enter Pinetops and push Wilson’s Greenlight Community Broadband out.

Suddenly Suddenlink

One of his constituents called Town Commissioner Brent Wooten last October to share a conversation he'd had at work in nearby Wilson. Wooten's constituent had encountered a Suddenlink employee who told him, "We're coming to see you in Pinetops." The company had sent out a notice to employees that overtime would be available because Suddenlink was planning to run fiber from Rocky Mount to Pinetops.

Wooten hadn't heard anything from Suddenlink; neither had any of the other Commissioners. All he knew was that the company had been reducing staff and cutting costs ever since being acquired by Altice in 2015.

A Little History

While events that put Pinetops (pop. 1,300) in the national spotlight began in February 2015, the story has roots that go back further. Officials in Pinetops, recognizing that better local Internet access keeps small rural communities from wasting away, approached several providers years ago requesting better Internet infrastructure. Suddenlink’s service area ends about two miles outside of Pinetops town limits. Nevertheless, Suddenlink wasn't willing to bring cable service to Pinetops. CenturyLink didn't want to make investments to upgrade the community's old DSL solution; the community had no options from national providers.

Not far from Pinetops sits Wilson, North Carolina, where the city of about 49,000 enjoys the benefits of a publicly owned fiber optic network, Greenlight. Pinetops officials asked Wilson to expand Greenlight to their town, but state law precluded Wilson from offering broadband beyond county lines. Pinetops and the local Vick Family Farm, a large potato manufacturer with international distribution, were both desperate for better services, out of reach, and out of options because no other ISP...

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Posted December 20, 2017 by lgonzalez

On December 14th, FCC Chair Ajit Pai and the Republican Commissioners voted to present a huge holiday gift to big ISPs by dismantling network neutrality, despite outcries from the American people. When we examined FCC data to determine how many Americans would be left without market protections from known network neutrality violators, the numbers were discouraging. Now we’ve reached into the weeds to analyze the numbers on a statewide basis. 

Percentage Of Population

The results reveal that a significant percentage of Americans will be limited to Internet access only from large monopolies that have a history of violating network neutrality and very strong incentives to abuse their market power. 

Some states with higher population benefit slightly from competition relative to others — compare Florida’s 40 percent to 65 percent in Pennsylvania — but this also reflects the anti-competitive nature of big ISPs that tend to cordon off sections of the country and respectfully stay within their zones. Other, more rural states, such as Wisconsin at 66 percent, have few options because national ISPs just aren’t interested in serving areas where population is sparse and the pay-off is a long time coming. Lack of competition means high probability of service from one of the big four known violators in our study — AT&T, Verizon, Comcast, and Charter.

In this chart, we've listed states in order of greatest percentage of impacted population: 

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State Population Served Only By Big 4 Net Neutrality Violators
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Posted December 7, 2017 by lgonzalez

The FCC is scheduled to decide the fate of Internet access on Thursday, Dec 14. Will anyone anywhere in the U.S. be able to pay one basic fee to access information on the Internet from the most popular to the most arcane content providers? If all indications are correct, probably not. ISPs will increasingly decide on what terms we access the content we want. Prepare for your bills to go up. 

You might wonder why the FCC is so focused on rolling back such an overwhelmingly popular policy in favor of giving more power to the most hated corporations in America. It isn't because the most recent rules to codify the long-standing principle of non-discrimination has harmed investment. It hasn't

But something struck us about the lobbying campaigns around this issue. This graphic from the Sunlight Foundation shows just how hard the top telecommunications companies and their lobbying associations have focused on defeating network neutrality. The image shows lobbying reports generated by lobbyists and whether or not the entity is opposed (red) or in favor of (green) network neutrality. As you can see, the amount of red coming from the ISPs that serve most of America vastly outstrips the green.

Lobbying-Reports-Mentioning-NN.png

Seeing Red

Since the Sunlight Foundation published this graphic in 2013, the landscape has changed in important ways. The two top firms supporting network neutrality were taken over by big monopolists that oppose maintaining an open Internet.

In 2015, Verizon acquired AOL for $4.4 billion and CenturyLink recently completed its acquisition of Level 3. CenturyLink, which sued the FCC over Title II reclassification, does not support network neutrality. The next strongest net neutrality supporter was Google, which took a quieter position in the 2015 debate over Title II but has...

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Posted October 31, 2017 by lgonzalez

What monster makes you tremble? Chills you to the core? Sends shivers through your soul? Could it be…the Monopoly Monster? Count Comcast? The Mummy from the Last CenturyLink?

We know how you feel and to help ease the fears that quicken your pulse when your open your monthly Internet access bill, we’re reanimating several goodies from Halloween 2015. We’re haunted by how these still ring true!

Enjoy, download, share!

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Posted September 18, 2017 by Staff

This is the transcript for episode 270 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast. Professor Barbara Cherry goes into detail on the history of common carriage and telecommunications law. Listen to this episode here.

Barbara Cherry: It's been a mess. And part of the problem is restoring a more accurate understanding of our history.

Lisa Gonzalez: This is Episode 270 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. I'm Lisa Gonzalez this week Christopher talks with attorney and legal scholar Barb Cherry about common carriage. We often talk about common carriage as it relates to telecommunications. And this week Christopher and Barb get into the policy. But most of us aren't aware of the legal history behind common carriage. Barb describes how its origins relate to the way it's applied today and how we need to consider the past as we move toward the future. Now here's Christopher and Barb Cherry.

Christopher Mitchell: Welcome to another edition of the Community Broadband Bits podcast. I'm Chris Mitchell from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance up in Minneapolis. Today I'm speaking with Barb Cherry a lawyer and a Ph.D. in communications who worked for the FCC for five years has 15 years in industry but is now a professor at the media school at Indiana University. Welcome to the show.

Barbara Cherry: Thank you, Chris.

Christopher Mitchell: Barb, one of the things I've warned you about. I'll tell the audience that you have an incredible amount of knowledge and you're very passionate. And so if this seems like it's getting a little bit too you know, friendly I might poke you a little bit to get some of that passion up on the surface.

Barbara Cherry: No problem.

Christopher Mitchell: Let's talk about common carriage which is something that I've never heard anyone explain as well as you have and and maybe you can just start with giving us a sense of the historical origins of common carriage in general.

Barbara Cherry: Yes common carriage is a special legal status that evolved over centuries literally to reflect that certain kinds of businesses engage in certain kinds of services...

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Posted September 12, 2017 by christopher

The modern fight over network neutrality isn't a few years old. It is well over 1,000 years old across a variety of infrastructures and is totally wrapped up in a legal concept known as common carriage that has governed many kinds of "carriers" over the years. Few, if any, are as conversant in this subject as Barbara Cherry - a lawyer and PH.D in communications. She has worked in industry for 15 years, at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for five years, and is currently a professor in the Media School at Indiana University.

One of the key points of our conversation is regarding the problems with media shortening the Network Neutrality policy fights as turning the Internet into a "public utility."  Barbara helps us to understand how common carriage is distinct from public utility regulation and why common carriage regulation is necessary even in markets that may have adequate competition and choices.

We also talk about the history of common carriage and the importance of what might seem like outdated law from the days of the telegraph. 

Read the transcript of the show here.

We want your feedback and suggestions for the show-please e-mail us or leave a comment below.

This show is 30 minutes long and can be played on this page or via iTunes or the tool of your choice using this feed.

You can download this mp3 file directly from here. Listen to other episodes here or view all episodes in our index.

Thanks to Arne Huseby for the music. The song is Warm Duck Shuffle and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license.

Posted August 20, 2017 by Staff

This is the transcript for episode 266 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast. Benoit Felten of Diffraction Analysis offers a global perspective on telecommunications policy. Listen to this episode here.

Benoit Felten: Japan and Korea would be forward-thinking businesses, then Europe would be short-term businesses but forced to look at the long-term through policy, and then the US would be short-term businesses, laissez-faire, do what you want.

Lisa Gonzalez: This is episode 266 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. I'm Lisa Gonzalez. Benoit Felten is back on the show to talk more about connectivity from an international perspective. He last visited with Christopher way back in 2012 for episode 21. This time they discuss several models that his company, Diffraction Analysis have studied in areas other than the US. Learn more at the company website DiffractionAnalysis.com. Before we start the interview, we want to remind you that this commercial free conversation is not free to produce. Please take a moment to contribute at ILSR.org. If you've already contributed, thanks. Now here's Christopher and Benoit Felten from Diffraction Analysis.

Christopher Mitchell: Welcome to another addition of the Community Broadband Bits podcast. I'm Chris Mitchell with the Institute for Local Self-Reliance and today I'm speaking with Benoit Felten, the CEO of Diffraction Analysis. Welcome back to the show, Benoit.

Benoit Felten: Thanks for having me.

Christopher Mitchell: We last talked about Stokab, I think in Stockholm. You are the CEO of Diffraction Analysis which does telecommunications research all around the world and I often think of you as my go-to person on how things work outside US and sometimes inside the US. Let me ask you, Benoit, when you hear people saying, "The United States sucks at broadband and Europe is so amazing." How do you react to those monolithic statements?

Benoit Felten: Yeah, well I think that's generally true. I mean, the problem is always that broadband is as good as where you measure...

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