Last month, two New York Times op-eds published during a single week, one written by the CEO of Verizon, claimed that the United States is doing well when it comes to high-speed Internet access. Both of these op-eds mentioned me and sharply criticized my calls for reform.
It’s great that Americans are finally paying attention to this crucial policy problem. We are subject to several great digital divides. There is a divide between Americans who have a wire at home and those that don’t, a divide between affluent Americans who will be able to pay for cable’s high-capacity (yet still second-class) high-speed connections and those who won’t, and a divide between America as a nation and those countries that have prioritized symmetric fiber access as a widely-available, reasonably-priced utility. All of these divides cast shadows over our nation’s future.
You shouldn’t be fooled by the incumbent companies’ misleading rhetoric and cherry-picking of data. You need to understand how successful cable operators are in controlling markets for wired data distribution in America these days, how willing telephone companies are to cede the wired field to cable and retreat to selling separate mobile wireless services where their profits are more certain, and how widespread cooperation — rather than healthy market cooperation — is across the entire industry.
In a nutshell, America has a series of regional cable monopolies controlling the pricing and capacity of fixed high-speed Internet access (and every other form of data reaching Americans). As former TCI CEO John Malone said in 2011, “cable is basically a monopoly now.” Wireless is not a substitute for these cable services. And the wireless and cable companies are collaborating.
The incumbents are trying to confuse you. They are hoping that Americans don’t notice that they’re focusing on the wrong definition of high-speed Internet access and blurring two separate markets — mobile wireless and fixed connections.
*Read more here.