Ajit Pai’s Shell Neutrality Net game
Even more dramatic, if you are in public housing or an apartment building in Wilson, in exchange for $ 10 per month added to your rent check, you can get 50 Mbps symmetrical fiber Internet access service. Wilson does this because it is in the city’s best interests to provide services to as many people as possible at the most reasonable cost. And about 50 percent of social housing residents register.
Sure, Comcast has a prepaid program and a $ 10 Internet Essentials program. But both are much more limited than what Wilson offers. Prepaid Xfinity is an asymmetric and slower service: 20 Mbps down and only 3 Mbps up, below the definition of FCC broadband access. You cannot sign up for a Comcast prepaid service if you have an active Comcast account: you cannot change.
And Comcast’s Internet Essentials program, launched A few years ago In order to give the FCC something to talk about when it approved the Comcast / NBCU merger against the public interest, is, in percentage terms, much less popular than Wilson’s 50%. As of 2015, Comcast’s program had only reached about 17% of its eligible population.
Why is Comcast’s program so unpopular? Because it is a low capacity, second rate service (15 Mbps down, 2 up); it is not available to people who owed Comcast money in the past year; it comes with a data cap; it is not available to anyone who has had a Comcast account in the past 90 days; it is not available for people who also want to subscribe to pay TV channels; and it is necessary that you re-up each year with documents proving your eligibility. So if you’re a current Comcast Internet Access subscriber, you have to cancel, wait 90 days (tough for families with school-aged kids; tough for everyone, really), and then apply. And reapply next year.
It’s no mystery why Comcast’s offerings are so unattractive and hard to access: it’s not in Comcast’s best interests to cannibalize its full-price customer base. Keep in mind that when Comcast provides a service, it is usually the only high capacity option. According to recent estimates by Wall Street analyst Craig Moffett, Comcast faces competition from fiber for at most a third of its footprint. There’s no reason the company should provide a respectable and equivalent prepayment program that subscribers can switch to at any time if they need to. There is no reason for the company to make an equivalent service available to the poorest at a lower cost. This is completely rational from Comcast’s point of view.
In contrast, Wilson makes it easy for anyone to get fiber, whether they are on a low income or not. It provides the same high capacity, symmetrical service to everyone, rich and poor. And he has every interest in keeping subscription prices as low as possible.
Finally, you might wonder why, if Wilson’s service is so successful, his neighbors in North Carolina didn’t notice and started building their own similar systems. The answer is, it is illegal. Time Warner Cable (later Charter, later Spectrum) succeeded in passing the state legislature legislation in 2011 aimed at never letting another city in the state follow Wilson’s lead.
What Wilson does provides high-speed fiber-optic Internet access in the public interest. The differences between Wilson’s utilitarian approach – getting as many people online as possible, from all walks of life, with the highest quality service and at reasonable prices – and what most Americans experience is dramatic. (In many places in America, this type of exceptional service does not have to be provided by the government itself; it can, instead, be provided when private companies compete with each other to serve you over a network of neutral and passive dark fiber operated in the public interest, as San Francisco plans to do.)
These comparisons are a perfect illustration of the difference between a system that takes into account the public interest and a system that avoids regulation and leaves citizens at the mercy of quasi-monopoly and unbridled corporate giants. Every American should be able to get this type of fiber optic service at competitive prices. Yes i said utility—How can you be sensitive in 2017 and not realize that Internet access is as vital a utility as telephone and radio services were in the last century? Recognizing this fundamental fact means that we will need to impose public obligations on private basic telecommunications companies – as we have as a country for 100 years.
Utility, public transport, the “Title II” label, in a nutshell, is the legal categorization that all of Ajit Pai’s net neutrality handwaving aims to destroy. It is outrageous that we all meet in the middle on Capitol Hill. Stay focused, Internet access fans. Don’t get carried away by the Net Neutrality frenzy. It’s a diversion. It is the FCC’s continued legal authority, and our lack of thought leadership, that is the real problem. The status is fine.