This one is short because I just want everyone to take a moment and consider what happened today and what it means. For or against Net-Neutrality 83% of Americans were for it. They wrote to the FCC in support of NOT repealing Net-Neutrality laws and the FCC did it anyway! What does it mean when 83% of Americans want something, express that clearly to their elected government, and the government does the opposite on behalf of the top 10% and big corporations instead? It means that we no longer have a democracy, we have a Corporate Dictatorship.
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.
So Comcast rolled out a plan similar to Google’s Project FI recently. I was, like most thinking Americans, skeptical. I knew it had to come with a horrible catch attached to it, like possibly requiring my mother to undergo experimental medical testing to get the deal. Comcast is one of the most hated companies in American history after all and their partner Verizon isn’t far behind. Actually, Comcast is one of the most hated companies in all of human history.
Google, a Net_Neutral company, partnered with slightly more reasonable wireless carriers T-Mobile and US Cellular but their pricing is about the same. Still, their pro Net-Neutral stance shows that they are at least a progressively run company for the time being.
Comcast partnered with super Anti-Net Neutrality carrier Verizon. We all know these guys for charging us at least 10x what people pay in other developed countries per for our services and backing them up with half-assed technology, like copper instead of fiber-optic based wiring, now they’re teaming up to pretend they’re doing you a favor again while taking advantage of you. Here’s how.
You have to have an XFinity account in the first place to even get XFinity Mobile. They mislead you with their advertising and say you can get unlimited calling for $45/month, but that’s only if you have one of their premier TV packages which start at $150 a month. If not, because you realized that traditional TV is going the way of the dinosaur and stupid, you will pay $65/month. So a family of 4 without a premier TV plan will pay almost $100 a month more for an unlimited plan than they will even with Verizon directly, who overcharges them too. The flyer I received also indicated that this may be a limited time offer that only extends through July as part of their “amazing” launch. In short, they’re screwing you again.
Yes, there is a pay per Gig option of $12 per gig, but this pricing is on par with many other providers that won’t hypothetically eat your firstborn if you sign a contract with them. The wireless hotspot access they advertise is largely stupid and pointless. Most businesses will allow you to use their Wi-Fi if you’re in range, staying with them, etc.
Comcast is also fervently against Net-Neutrality. This is probably because the truth is that Net-Neutrality is good for the end user. It effectively requires companies to actually improve their infrastructure without charging their customers more as their demands increase. It also keeps questionable companies like Comcast and CenturyLink from doing things like censoring the news, etc. using network prioritization or stealing bandwidth from their poorest users. All of that will be fair game if we lose Net-Neutrality by the way.
In the end it’s a bandaid to the problems we face with telecom today. We need public broadband that is Net-Neutral. Sure, private local providers can help provide access to this network, but without it we’ll just keep playing these games and keep being taken advantage of. How about this. How about instead of shitty Comcast hotspots we establish a network of public broadband Wi-Fi hooked up to public fiber that people can use to get their work done anywhere at no cost and get America out of the telecom dark ages.
So in short, one of the most immoral things you can do during this dark time is voluntarily give Comcast, CenturyLink, Verizon, and any of the other telecom companies supporting Trump’s Anti Net-Neutrality policies your money. It doesn’t even make financial sense to anyway.
One more note from the standpoint of the government. Whenever a new service comes up government officials who either don’t get it, or claim not to get it because they’re invested in these big telecom companies, use these services as justification that services are becoming available to more and more people at better rates but that simply isn’t true. The competition we’ve seen in the private market gives us all about the same services for about the same prices with limited equipment options. The companies carve out territories and stop competing almost immediately, creating an illusion of competition while establishing virtual monopolies. It is not in their interest to really make improvements. The only times that they do are when public options are established that actually bring pricing down, and give citizens a better option.
Before doing the right things, the big providers will usually start out by trying to force communities not to provide a public option in the first place, turn them off if one has been installed, or even use red scare tactics and call it socialism. Basically, they will try everything not to let you have better service, from an ethical provider, at a better price, but if your community sticks to its guns it will change their behavior for the better too.
Hooray, Trump killed the TPP. Hey, I’m obviously not a fan of Trump’s policies in general, but this was a good thing and I’ll give him, or anyone, credit where credit is due. Still, he has to get rid of NAFTA too before I’ll give him a full pat on the back. Let’s say this is a half pat. Also note that there is a probably a 70% chance that he will find a way to make his corporate friends happy by enacting the parts of the TPP that are in their interest down the road. He’ll probably even work the name Trump into the name of the “deal” somehow. Still, for now it’s a good thing.
Proponents of the TPP, aka “New Democrats”, more accurately the corporate Democrats that destroyed the party like the scum-sucking piece of shit Cory Booker who made it so your grand-ma can’t afford the medicine she needs to stay alive from Canada, say that the TPP included many good things like rules barring child labor from being used in partner countries, but saying something and enforcing it are two different things.
- You’re dealing with countries that don’t bat an eye at using child labor. Do you think they’re really going to listen? Look at our food industry. Meat processors pay fines all of the time instead of running safe processing plants. They’ll just keep using child labor and pay the fines if they get caught.
- Great the TPP gets rid of discrimination, on paper anyway. So you can’t discriminate against a worker for stupid reasons. That’s good, but then you’re going to pay them 30 cents an hour for hard labor to make stupid shit for Americans to buy. So it doesn’t sound to me like you’re really doing them a favor.
However, at the same time Trump did this he did a lot of very scary things too.
- He reopened the Keystone and DAPL pipelines.
- He attacked women’s rights with very backward anti-abortion laws.
- He is not going to stand in the way of logging in the Northwest that will probably result in the extinction of the Spotted Owl.
- He is already meeting, almost exclusively, with the heads of giant, abusive corporations and taking their advice on how to set policy.
- He will probably not require internet providers to maintain Net Neutrality. So I hope you like MSNBC, and the Comcast owned companies, because get read for them to be prioritized in the background, but don’t worry, if you’re poor you probably won’t be able to really even use the internet during peak hours while the bandwidth you pay for is stolen and given to rich customers to maintain their HD movie watching capability. It’s way cheaper for Comcast and CenturyLink to do this than to really improve their infrastructure and they’ve done it in the past.
— If you haven’t read Orwell’s 1984, then now is the time. http://www.george-orwell.org/1984