Politico wrote a very good piece detailing the many issues that have plagued the FCC’s past rural broadband initiative. It didn’t expand broadband, it costs a lot of money and it had zero accountability. Those are all facts. In fact, I agree with everyone that the FCC has always been embarrassingly bad with their national expansion programs.
But, what caught my eye was the idea that telecom leaders/lobbyists would somehow act as if they weren’t a big part of this failure. As Multichannel noted when discussing the Politico story:
Several prominent figures in the cable community tweeted links to the Politico piece, including National Cable & Telecommunications Association CEO Michael Powell; American Cable Association vice president of communicatons Ted Hearn; and Mediacom Communications vice president of legal and public affairs Tom Larsen.
As the Politico story discussed, of the 300 projects that were approved for federal funds, only half of the projects had companies using the full amount of money given to them. 40 projects funded didn’t even started.
While I agree with the FCC doing an absolutely horrible job in keeping track of the money, why are telecom lobbyists and telecom CEO’s acting like the providers weren’t just as guilty of screwing the program up? There are many examples of the government handing over money to the providers only to see the providers waste millions on idiotic decisions.
Example? As Karl Bode brings up on DSLReports:
And the Politico report linked to above doesn’t even mention West Virginia, which was the poster child of broadband subsidy dysfunction. Local Charleston Gazette reporter Eric Eyre for years highlighted how Verizon, Frontier and Cisco convinced the state to buy ridiculously overpriced, overpowered and unused routers, and ridiculously overpaid, redundant consultants who haven’t actually accomplished anything.
Then we have companies like AT&T who accepted hundreds of millions….then never got back to the federal government about where the money went or how it actually upgraded the areas. Last I heard in August of 2013, the cities where AT&T was supposed to upgrade with the received money….still had the same service.
Also, who helped write most parts of the National Broadband Plan (that gave the government information used to help figure out where/how to hand out funds for expansion) in 2012? That’s right. The very same broadband providers. Is it any wonder why so much of the funds were distributed poorly when the National Broadband Plan gave the government laughably wrong information?
Again, that is on the government as much as anyone. But the notion that the government screwed it up in full when the ISP’s pushed for most reasonable parts of the National Broadband Plan to be excluded so parts of the country looked like they had low prices (when they didn’t), great competition (when they didn’t) or fast speeds (when they didn’t), is simply ignoring reality. The first few versions of the National Broadband Plan didn’t even include price because providers were scared of how terrible it would look. Then there were cities on the initial map with speeds that just flat out didn’t exist in that area.
Providers also don’t like that the FCC would possibly give money to another company to build their own network when the incumbent provider already has one in the area. Again, Verizon and AT&T are the same companies who last year said that 10 Mbps was “too fast” for the definition of broadband. If a company wants to spend money on building a network that allows for customers to get ACTUAL good speeds, why would we stop them from receiving help from the government? Are we really supposed to protect incumbent providers that have no interest in ever upgrading their networks?
There is this notion that we shouldn’t be having AT&T/Verizon fend off competition from companies who receive money from the government. Aren’t AT&T/Verizon the same companies receiving BILLIONS in taxpayer dollars every year from the federal government? Isn’t this the same taxpayer money that doesn’t actually produce new jobs by anyone’s definition? Also, how about Verizon taking billions from multiple states and never even finishing the agreed upon deal?
Speaking of wasting billions in taxpayer dollars, will we ever see the evidence that handing over $200 billion to the telecom companies in 2007 made a difference in broadband availability around the country?
While I again agree that the FCC is at fault for their failure to properly issue and keep track of the funds, I take issue with ISP’s acting as if they had nothing to do with this. Even today, we hear countless lobbyists tell stories of how secretly great the broadband companies are in this country. Nevermind that ISP’s are routinely dead last or near last in all customer satisfaction surveys. It really must be a coincidence that freakin airlines rank above American ISP’s in terms of satisfaction.