Bill Moyers: Why U.S. Internet Access is Slow, Costly and Unfair
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BILL MOYERS: So what should the F.C.C. do about that?
SUSAN CRAWFORD: This is a moment when we have to separate out content from conduit. It should not be possible for a local cable actor or any distributor to withhold programming based on volume. That's what's going on. The programmers say, "We'll sell to Comcast cheaply 'cause they're big. But if you're an upstart we're going to charge you three to four times what Comcast is paying for the same programming." That should not be legal. Everybody should get access to the same stuff at the same price and they should be announced prices.
BILL MOYERS: What about the argument that in this modern world there are certain industries, certain markets, that require an economy of scale. Critics have said that you're ignoring the sophisticated economics that govern these industries.
SUSAN CRAWFORD: The economics of these networks did not change when we added a little bit of digital pixie dust to them. It's still very expensive to build these networks. Private actors still don't have an interest in covering everybody because that's too much of an economic risk for them. The better route is sensible oversight. We can learn from our mistakes in the past when it came to regulatory regimes that didn't work. But a regulatory regime is needed without question to make this work for all Americans.
BILL MOYERS: I have to say this is pretty strong stuff. Listen to yourself. "Instead of ensuring that everyone in America can compete in a global economy, instead of narrowing the divide between rich and poor, instead of supporting competitive free markets for American inventions that use information, instead that is of ensuring that America will lead the world in the U.S. in the information age, U.S. politicians have chosen to keep Comcast and its fellow giants happy."
SUSAN CRAWFORD: For the last 30 years the rhetoric of the market being the thing we all aspire to has in a sense become the collective vision in America. Our politicians aren't separate from that kind of understanding. I think they believe that it's better to have government stay out of industry. In this particular place no government intervention is actually disaster for the country because we leave so many people behind, we subject ourselves to the informational control of just a few giants. The problem for the politicians is that there's no upside right now to fighting back. If they do they'll lose their campaign contributions. We need to get the public interested in this so that politicians will understand that they're not acting alone.
BILL MOYERS: In your last chapter you describe what happened in Lafayette, Louisiana when the city decided it wanted the very kind of internet access you're talking about. And a few years ago my colleagues and I did a documentary called “Net @ Risk” in which we looked at the threat to internet access. And we went to Lafayette and lo and behold they're doing exactly what you're describing in your book.
JOEY DUREL in Net @ Risk: We have an out-migration problem with our young people from Louisiana, and I felt it was time for politicians to quit talking and do something. RICK KARR in Net @ Risk: Something like building every home and business in town its own fiber optic connection to the information superhighway.
DON BERTRAND in Net @ Risk: We see telecommunications in the way of Internet, in the way of fiber connectivity as something that should be available to everyone.
STEPHEN HANDWERK in Net @ Risk: Just like water, sewer, electricity, telephone. I mean it all falls into that same lump.