By B.N. Frank
According to telecom experts who filed a lawsuit against the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Americans have already paid to have safer high-speed internet via fiber optics (see also 1, 2, 3, 4). This is why the FCC should NOT be giving more tax payer dollars to telecom companies to “bridge the digital divide” (see 1, 2).
Earlier this week, Bruce Kushnick provided the first of a series of articles that reveal more about how Americans have been and continue to be gouged by Big Telecom and Big Cable. Thanks to Bruce for quickly following up with article #2:
Let’s just call it Break Up AT&T et al…. Again.
Big Tech Vs Big Telecom
Over the last few years there has been a call to go after “Big Tech” companies, including Google, Amazon, Facebook and Twitter. The “FTC” (“Federal Trade Commission”, as opposed to the “FCC”, the “Federal Communications Commission”) and Attorney General offices around the US are actively going after Facebook, and there are other cases against Amazon and Google, claiming ‘Big Tech’ is harming America due to monopolistic practices. (And this is on top of cases overseas against Amazon, Google and the other online companies.)
While there appear to be legitimate issues about market power in the ‘search’ and ‘online advertising’ markets, all of these services not only require that the user choose to visit these companies’ web presence, but a user must first have an Internet Service Provider (ISP) that connects them to the broadband infrastructure, hopefully using a high-speed broadband connection. And these services are either using a wired connection or going over airwaves with wireless, which almost always ends up on the wired networks.
Big Bell Telecom
In the end, the overwhelming majority of connections are now controlled by a cartel, just a few companies dubbed: “Big Telecom” — AT&T, Verizon & CenturyLink, and “Big Cable”, Comcast & Charter. They control most of wires, most of the wireless business, and with the cable companies, they control the high-speed broadband access connectivity service, including the Internet to access websites and the new video streaming services, not to mention phone and bundled Cable TV services in America.
We will address ‘Big Cable’ in an upcoming report.
The Big Bell Telecom Monopoly
By the 1970’s, it was clear that the original AT&T had become a very powerful monopoly. It not only controlled the primary state telecommunications public utilities in most states, but it also controlled the long-distance service (calls between states) and it blocked competitors from using these networks. In 1984, 7 “Regional Bell Operating Companies”, “RBOCs”, were formed and each became the caretaker of a collection of these utilities. There were also independents like GTE or SNET (CT), and long-distance companies, including MCI.
The map shows how these Bell companies never left and divided up the country into land-based fiefdoms that do not seriously compete for wired phone and broadband services, even though that was a requirement of most of the mergers that made these three dominant holding companies.
In fact, there were attempts to change this outcome. The Telecom Act of 1996 opened these wires to competition, but with the help of the FCC, the cabal killed off most competition, including 7,000 independent ISPs;
By 2007, Humpty Dumpty had been put back together, as three, very large holding companies with specific geographic coverage. Moreover, they took over the independents; Verizon was the creation of Bell Atlantic adding the independent, GTE; AT&T purchased the independent SNET, claiming they would compete on the East Coast — which did not ever happen. Moreover, they gobbled up the long-distance business. SBC bought AT&T, which had been the largest long-distance company, and took the name AT&T around 2005, and Verizon bought MCI. These mergers effectively killed off the 2 largest competitors. (Ironically, Verizon later sold off a chunk of the GTE holdings to Frontier and its holdings in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont, while AT&T sold them SNET.)
The Pandemic Woke Up America
Ironically, it took a Pandemic of major proportions, that forced a ‘stay-at-home’ mandate in America, to make the public notice that there were problems with America’s high-speed broadband service geographic coverage, the affordability of this connectivity access and thus their connection to the internet services.
Almost overnight, the terms “Digital Divide”, “Digital Inclusion” and “Digital Inequity” as well as “infrastructure” have filled the media. Congress, the FCC and almost every city, county and state in America is attempting to come to grips with the fact that large areas of rural America, as well as more localized problems in the inner cities, either any connectivity, low connectivity or don’t have high speed broadband available or worse, the services are just not affordable.
Unknown to most, starting in 1991, the “National Infrastructure Initiative”, (also known as the “Information Superhighway”), was announced as part of the Clinton-Gore campaign. The goal was to have America replace the aging copper wires with a fiber optic wire, and the companies went state-to-state to have laws changed, claiming they would build this fabulous fiber optic future if they were granted rate increases and given tax perks.
New Networks Institute, the IRREGULATORS (and before that Teletruth), have been calling for investigations of what is now AT&T, Verizon and CenturyLink (now Lumen) for decades. In fact, we were featured on Bill Moyers on America, Emmy-nominated “The Net at Risk”, on PBS, in 2006, in a segment ironically called “The New Digital Divide” where we warned of this unholy outcome — slow, inferior, high-priced services that are deployed in the wealthier areas, with only 1 or 2 providers (a monopoly or duopoly), if at all.
In 2015, we estimated that over $400 billion dollars had been collected for fiber optic networks that were never deployed. We now know this failure to bring high speed broadband to America was one of the major culprits that caused the Digital Divide.
And in 2021, the issues we laid out have gotten worse. We are at the tipping point of the end game. Politicians and advocates call for throwing hundreds of billions of dollars in government subsidies at the problem. This is a bad idea.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is supposed to protect the public by regulating the telecom industry. Obviously the agency has been instead catering to the industry for decades (see 1, 2). In addition to Americans being overcharged for services that many still haven’t received, lawsuits were filed against the FCC for NOT protecting the public from unsafe levels of cell phone and WiFi radiation as well as 5G on Earth (see 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6) and in space. Adding insult to injury, by amending the “OTARD Rule”, private property owners may now install 5G and WiFi antennas to broadcast into their neighborhoods without obtaining a permit or notifying anybody (see 1, 2).
High-speed internet is safer and more secure with a wired internet connection (see 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10). American opposition to 5G and other unwanted wireless installation continues to increase due to concerns about reduced property value (see 1, 2, 3), public safety (see 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6), health (see 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8), cybersecurity and environmental risks. Some have described 5G installation as a form of “environmental racism”.
Activist Post reports regularly about unsafe technology. For more information visit our archives and the following websites.
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