Imagine if Borders and Barnes & Noble, claiming it was killing their book sales, asked lawmakers to ban cities from building libraries. The legislators would laugh them out of the State House. Yet the same thing is happening right now with respect to Wi-Fi and other municipal broadband plans, and it is being taken all too seriously. In fact, although it is almost universally acknowledged that broadband access is essential to economic growth and education, phone and cable companies are lobbying furiously to prohibit municipalities from providing free or discounted broadband to their residents.
Susan Crawford's Captive Audience Book Reviewed
I quickly read the just-released Captive Audience: The Telecom Industry and Monopoly Power in the New Gilded Age, and came away quite excited by Susan Crawford's new book.
Susan Crawford has been supportive of community owned networks and a loud voice against the poor policies that have allowed a few massive cable and telephone companies to monopolize our telecommunications. Her new book is a good resource for those just getting interested in this issue.
After the book was released last week, Susan Crawford appeared on the Diane Rehm show -- an excellent 50 minute interview that comes highly recommended. Be aware that the cable/telephone industry is engaging in character assassination to prevent Susan's message from reverberating around the country.
The book led to Sam Gustin's article in Time, "Is Broadband Internet Access a Public Utility?"
State and local laws that make it difficult — if not impossible — for new competition to emerge in broadband markets should be reformed, according to Crawford. For example, many states make it very difficult for municipalities to create public wireless networks, thanks to decades of state-level lobbying by the industry giants. In order to help local governments upgrade their communications grids, Crawford is calling for an infrastructure bank to help cities obtain affordable financing to help build high-speed fiber networks for their citizens. Finally, U.S. regulators should apply real oversight to the broadband industry to ensure that these market behemoths abide by open Internet principles and don’t price gouge consumers.
Art Brodsky also reviewed the book on the Huffington Post. He leads with a reminder of the damage done by the NFL's replacement refs, an apt comparison given how poorly the FCC and Congress have protected the public.
Susan will be our guest for the Community Broadband Bits Podcast (episode 29) on Tuesday, Jan 15, and I will be offering periodic thoughts on passages from the book in coming days/weeks.