But that doesn't mean we can't use humor to illustrate the very serious impact of more consolidation in the mobile market! Check out four short commercials prepared by Free Press and vote on your favorite. Our favorites are below.
You can also read this story over at the Huffington Post.
How can it be that the big companies who deliver some of the most important services in our modern lives (access to the Internet, television) rank at the top of the most hated? Probably because when they screw up or increase prices year after year, we have no choice but sticking with them. Most of us have no better options.
But why do we have so few choices? Government-sanctioned monopolies have been outlawed since the 1996 Telecommunications Act. Unfortunately, the natural tendency of the telecommunications industry is toward consolidation and monopoly (or duopoly). In the face of this reality, the federal government has done little to protect citizens and small businesses from telecom market failings.
But local governments have stepped up and built incredible next-generation networks that are accountable to the community. These communities have faster speeds (at lower prices) than the vast majority of us.
Most of these communities would absolutely prefer for the private sector to build the necessary networks and offer real competition, but the economics of telecom makes that as likely as donuts becoming part of a healthy breakfast. In most cases, the incumbent cable and telephone companies are too entrenched for any other company to overbuild them. But communities do not have the same pressures to make a short-term profit. They can take many years to break even on an investment that creates many indirect benefits along the way.
One might expect successful companies like AT&T and Time Warner Cable to step up to the challenge posed by community networks, and they have. Not by simply investing more and competing for customers, but by using their comparative advantage – lobbying state legislatures to outlaw the competition. As we noted in our commentary and video last week, massive cable and telephone companies have tried to remove...Read more
Rick Karr has produced a "can't miss" 15 minute video that shows what happens when telecommunications is treated more like infrastructure and less like a for-profit morass controlled by massive companies.
We can have universal, fast, affordable, and reliable access to the Internet but we choose instead to let companies like AT&T and Comcast dominate telecommunications to the detriment of our economy, innovation, education, and health care. It is a choice -- and one we desperately need to revisit.
This video is no longer available.
Some still question whether we need FTTH networks, suggesting that modest copper upgrades will be fine for most over the next 5-10 years. When it comes to essential infrastructure, the idea that we should "cut costs" by operating right on the margin usually ends poorly -- and costs more, particularly in lost opportunities.
But to get a taste of what is possible on next-generation networks, check out a short video synopsis (the first video) of an entire conference discussing this subject.
The following videos are much more in-depth (and in chronological order), following the theme of "Public Services in a Gigabit World."
I have long been a fan of Larry Lessig's work, so I was proud to see him use our work as the foundation for his presentation at the 2011 Personal Democracy Forum. He talks about the fundamental right of communities to build their own networks as well as Time Warner Cable's successful purchase of competition-limiting legislation in North Carolina.
Update: You can also watch the video over at the Huffington Post, in our first post as a HuffPo blogger.
While we were battling Time Warner Cable to preserve local authority in North Carolina, we developed a video comparing community fiber networks to incumbent DSL and cable networks to demonstration the incredible superiority of community networks.
We have updated the video for a national audience rather than a North Carolina-specific approach because community fiber networks around the country are similarly superior to incumbent offerings. And community networks around the country are threatened by massive corporations lobbying them out of existence in state legislatures.
Feel free to send feedback - especially suggestions for improvement - to email@example.com.
Without further ado, here is the new video comparing community fiber networks to big incumbent providers:
Today, take a moment to learn about a promising documentary and pledge some support to make sure it gets made! A short description:
Imagine if your favorite website was blocked or slowed down because it competed with the corporation that “owned” the Internet bandwidth. How would you react if your posts on Facebook were censored by the government? What would happen if independent blogs and news media became priced out of the Internet because they couldn’t afford the rates charged for a new Internet fast lane? What kind of power should lie within the governments? Should they have the ability to have a virtual Kill Switch?
We find these threats to the free and open Internet to be the single greatest danger to democracy today. #killswitch the film will inform and inspire action in a population largely unaware of these important issues.
This video is no longer available.
Lafayette's publicly owned FTTH network has created a YouTube channel featuring a commercial aimed at residential subscribers (in 15, 30, and 60 second spots) as well as a longer video aimed at increasing economic development. Both are embedded below.
These are "no-brainer" marketing techniques that every community should have at a minimum to promote their services.
There are many places to find information about AT&T's war on WiscNet, a great credit to those who recognize the importance of WiscNet to schools, libraries, and local governments around the state. The best article on the subject may be from Wisconsin Tech News (WTN), with "UW faces return of $37M for broadband expansion in 11th hour bill." This post builds on that as a primer for those interested in the controversy.
Update: Read a Fact Check Memo [pdf] from the University of Wisconsin Extension Service with responses to false allegations from AT&T and its allies.
AT&T and its allies have long made false claims against WiscNet, setting the stage for their lobbyists to push this legislation to kill it. AT&T and some other incumbents want to provide the services WiscNet provides in order to boost their profits. WiscNet not only offers superior services, it offers services the private providers will not provide (including specialized education services). For instance, from the WTN article:
One of features that differentiates WiscNet from a private broadband provider is allowing for “bursting,” so that during isolated periods when researchers send huge data sets, they greatly exceed the average data cap. UW-Madison currently uses seven gigabits on average, and would have to procure 14 gigabits under the new legislation, even though most of the extra seven gigabits would seldom be in use, Meachen [UW CIO] said.
“We'd be paying for the fact that researchers have to send these huge data sets, and not have it take hours and hours to get to where it's going,” Meachen said. “You can't afford to pay for that extra 7 gigabits from the private sector because it's too costly. They increase your charges based on that.”
A private network would not have the necessary capacity for scientists on the UW-Madison campus, who are some of the leading researchers on next generation Internet. A previous recommendation to combine BadgerNet and WiscNet was deemed infeasible, as AT&T would own the network and would not be able to provide sufficient bandwidth at an affordable cost, Meachen said.
WiscNet is a buying cooperative,...Read more
Though the North Carolina fight is over, I wanted to include these two videos in our archive in case they are useful to those in the future who will undoubtedly cover the same ground.
One is the excellent local news video asking about the role of lobbyists and political contributions on the laws that get passed and the other captures an important moment from debates in the Legislature - thanks to NC Policy Watch for posting.
The first video is no longer available.