U.S. Broadband Cannot Be Fixed Until You Tackle Corruption
Editorial: broadband cheerleading and Ivy League round tables aren't enough...
An eclectic and disjointed mix of businesses, consumer advocacy organizations, politicians and technologists this week banded together under the "Internet For Everyone
" banner to promote, well, Internet for everyone. The group's long list
of strange bedfellows includes the ACLU, Google, Consumer's Union, Internet2, OpenDNS, Free Press, the Writers Guild of America, the
Nancy Drew fan fiction club
and many more -- though I think they fail to directly tackle this industry's most pressing problem. According to the group's website, the organization has four primary principles
Access: Every home and business in America must have access to a high-speed, world class communications infrastructure.
To make sure every American can benefit from the new economy and guarantee all citizens play an active role in our democracy, our nation must embark on a national campaign to connect every American to a fast, affordable and open Internet.
Internet For Everyone Coalition
Choice: Every consumer must enjoy real competition in online content as well as among high-speed Internet providers to achieve lower prices and higher speeds.
Openness: Every Internet user should have the right to freedom of speech and commerce online in an open market without gatekeepers or discrimination.
Innovation: The Internet should continue to create good jobs, foster entrepreneurship, spread new ideas and serve as a leading engine of economic growth.
I've seen enough of these types of groups come and go in my nearly a decade of covering the industry to begin to wonder what the actual point is. A group that wants a fast, fair Internet is about as pertinent as a group that demands tasty strudel for everyone.
The problem is that while these groups field yet another feel-good event where Internet Ivy League celebrities like Tim Wu
and Larry Lessig
wax poetic on the limitless potential of the Intertubes, AT&T lobbyists are purchasing your State's entire legislative body in order to pass the "Anti-competitive consumer sodomy act of 2008" or some variant
thereof. It's kind of like cheering for more wind on the deck of a rotting sailboat.
I'd be more impressed if these groups dropped the banal, vague principles (seriously, who exactly opposes "innovation?") and took a strong stance on the real reasons broadband competition in this country is stagnant: government corruption, an un-skeptical media, the incumbent stranglehold on policymakers, the massive web of disinformation
created by lobbyists, and the complete bi-partisan failure
in government leadership.
Don't get me wrong; I do think these groups can help institute change, but I think this particular group's mission statement is in dire need of clarity. With George Carlin's passing -- and his streamlining of the Ten Commandments fresh in my mind -- I'd like to replace the group's fairly mundane four principles with just one. I think my singular principle would be immensely more beneficial to this industry:Tackle corruption
: The FCC should be stocked with technologists and visionaries, not bleating political partisans whose primary loyalties lie with the nation's largest corporations. Every effort should be made to purge the incumbent lobbyist stranglehold on this nation's policy makers. Until you do this, you will fix nothing
We have no competition without leadership. What leadership we do have acts primarily as an extension of the nation's broadband duopoly. With the FCC and FTC all but under the direct control of telecom operators, this duopoly has ensured that competition remains stagnant. They're spending billions to ensure that pro-consumer national broadband plans never
come to pass -- while you're crying in your strudel.
Tackle corruption if you truly want to create competition. Create competition and you organically solve this industry's biggest problems (network neutrality, anti-competitive monopoly behavior, ISP marketing department use of the term "eXtreme"). If you're not placing the elimination of incumbent control over lawmakers as the primary cornerstone of your broadband improvement plan, you might as well be holding a Tupperware party.