Net-Neutrality is in the news yet again as we are on the cusp of losing more of our first amendment rights again to big, unethical, telecom companies. Instead of making all of the arguments for net-neutrality that other individuals, organizations, and net-neutral companies like Google have already done a great job of I want to make a very specific one. I want to talk about how it’s corporate welfare.
You see, when a town install public broadband or has a company like Google available these companies tend to actually do their installs correctly. A town like Bellingham, WA would cost about $10 million dollars to wire up, if it was done all at once, of course publicly owned networks tend to pay for themselves including for their own expansion and maintenance, so you usually install some at a low cost, and then incrementally allow it to expand, but that is a topic for another article.
What is relevant is that if you look at a town like Bellingham you will pretty quickly realize that most residents only have real access to 1 telecom company and that almost all of the providers here are anti-net neutral. CenturyLink put an almost laughable amount of fiber in and is overselling their capacity and service choices here, just like they did in King County.
Estimates put it at about only $500,000 so about 1/20th of the fiber necessary to really make Bellingham competitive in the modern world and their pricing is way higher than Google. Of course getting real figures out of CenturyLink is next to impossible. This spotty service isn’t even available everywhere and is anti-net neutral. Comcast is even worse with their copper infrastructure. Our government has used these poor providers as an excuse not to give us better choices, and this has resulted in virtual monopolies all over our town. This is true of many place in the US. Some towns simply have their service cut off if they don’t purchase enough connections from one of these giants. See these town in 13 states that had 1,300 connections abruptly shut off by Verizon proving that totally private service is not reliable. https://muninetworks.org/tags-57
A company like Google though, and most publicly owned networks, expand until the town has adequate coverage for everyone, include an access for all component, and therefore provide adequate opportunities for everyone. Smaller private providers often just get absorbed by Comcast or one of the bigger providers, who often make the absorbed connections and quality standards surrounding them worse. This gives you the illusion of choice but really just hides monopolies in the background.
So how is this corporate welfare? With net-neutrality a company has the incentive to build a better network to keep data prioritization equal. This is not expensive for them to do and lowers the cost per MBit for consumers. Even with that, most Americans pay 10 times the amount paid in other developed countries for their services and get much worse service in return. Without net-neutrality a company can throttle connections or even steal bandwidth from other parts of the network to keep premium customers data flowing at a fast rate, making the slower connections even worse. They can also take ransoms from companies to prioritize their traffic above others. Think of how this will effect the news! It also means that they are not regulated to build better networks and that the connections for most individuals will get worse while only an elite few see better connections. We are allowing them to do a terrible job and make more money than ever off of their poor services by not regulating them. That’s how it’s corporate welfare. We’re essentially giving them more money by not guaranteeing their services will even be good or usable for most.
It should be noted that most of our regulation was almost toothless before this anyway. If anything we needed more regulation to protect the interest of the average American, not less.
Also, the FCC under the Trump administration is pushing many other backward telecom standards listed here.
Most of them sound good until you look into them. For example, the “Common-sense measures” to ease transition from copper to fiber, part of what they’re voting on is also corporate welfare. See Fiber is a great idea, especially publicly owned fiber, in fact it should be the default standard for telecom cabling in the US today, but this administration is just going to give tax money to big telecoms to upgrade their privately owned infrastructure. So 18 Billion dollar CenturyLink will not have to spend their own money maintaining and upgrading their own infrastructure. You’ll do it for them, even if you’re note one of their customers. They will be given your tax dollars instead. It’s a handout.