Joho the Blog[pdf] Susan Crawford: Rethinking broadband - Joho the Blog

[pdf] Susan Crawford: Rethinking broadband

Susan Crawford says, “We are in the course of a titanic battle for the future of the Internet in the United States. The technology community is radically underrepresented in this battle.”

NOTE: Live-blogging. Getting things wrong. Missing points. Omitting key information. Introducing artificial choppiness. Over-emphasizing small matters. Paraphrasing badly. Not running a spellpchecker. Mangling other people’s ideas and words. You are warned, people.

Telephone providers and cable providers have each been merging, increasing monopoly holds on regions.The government has a key role in providing a level playing field for innovators. If you’re worried about personalization at the app level (as per Eli Pariser yesterday), you should be very worried about it at the network level.

“The Net would not exist absent government regulation.” E.g., the telcos were required to allow modems to attach to telephone lines. When cable modems arrived, government regulators were confused. Thinking that competition was right around the corner, the FCC completely deregulated highspeed Net access in 2002 (and 2205,6,7). They took away the “regulated” level but reserved the right to reregulate it (via “ancillary jurisdiction”). The courts have found that labeling a service as deregulated but then regulating it (as in the Comcast case) makes no sense. So, the FCC is proposing to re-regulate, but free of the heavy-handed elements: No rate regulation, etc. But, carriers would be required not to discriminate among bits [= Net neutrality]. This is the FCC’s “Third Wave.” The carriers claim that this is the “nuclear option.”

The FCC needs to regulate to fulfill its mandate to enable Net access to all people. E.g., they need to gather data. And they want to make sure that it’s open for innovation. Also, to keep privacy of packets. It’s great that AT&T is part of this conversation at PDF. But AT&T has spent $6M this quarter for lobbying against any form of regulation. There have also been personal attacks, she says. Comcast spent $29M in the first quarter, she adds.

By 2012, the FCC says, most Americans will have only one choice of provider. [June 5: Susan’s slide actually said that by 2012, 75 to 85 percent of Americans will have one choice of wired provider for 50 to 100Mbps speeds; sorry for the gross gloss. This comes from the National Broadband Plan.] Verizon has backed off on its plans for FIOS. So there will not be another competitor to cable. We should therefore be concerned about Comcast’s plans to merge with NBC, giving it an edge against other major video providers, but also against the growth of online video. Comcast could put content behind an authentication wall, so to see it you’d have to be a cable subscriber. The tech community should watch this merger carefully.

The content providers believe in “vertical integration,” so we’ll see many more mergers.

She says 100 yrs ago, Americans hated Standard Oil which was able to control regional production of oil. Small business people and farmers were enraged by them. Standard Oil required railroads to ship their stuff cheaper, and if the RR’s shipped competitors’ stuff, SO got paid. They also carried out espionage about competitive shipments. Like the electric grid, like the Net, the future of highspeed access depends upon government creation of a level playing field. The tech community should be working together to make sure we retain the ability to innovate.

[I interviewed Susan about the FCC’s Third Way on a Radio Berkman podcast] [Note: On June 5, I made some very minor edits, cleaning up typos and unclear referents, etc., in addition to the insertion noted above.]

19 Responses to “[pdf] Susan Crawford: Rethinking broadband”

  1. What an incredible collection of falsehoods and fearmongering! ISPs are not battling against the “technology community;” we are a vital part of it. And continued expansion and acceleration of broadband depend upon our innovation on behalf of consumers.

    Nor is it true that the FCC (or anyone but Ms. Crawford) says that in 2012 most Americans will have only one choice of broadband provider. The only way that will happen is if the Internet is nationalized, as Ms. Crawford herself advocates in a recent blog posting. The fact is that Americans’ broadband choices are expanding — with WISPs like mine already covering more than 90% of the US population and multiple cellular providers available in more and more areas. Yes, competition could be deterred if “network neutrality” regulation — which would unduly burden competitive providers — were imposed. But in fact there’s no crisis. Ms. Crawford is fabricating one in an attempt to argue for stringent regulation of the Net — which would return us to a “Ma Bell” regulated monopoly — or for nationalization. Don’t buy it.

  2. I would question the term ‘broadband’ as used to to refer to WISPS like that of Mr. Glass. I have more than once seen him write on the necessity for such ISPs to limit the application choices of his users through bandwidth constraints commercial or technical.

  3. And what support do you have for your claim that WISPs do not provide “broadband?” The fact is that WISPs can (and do!) provide capacities as high as gigabits per second. And every one of my links to my users, no matter how remote, has a raw data rate of 11 Mbps or more. Not too shabby, I daresay.

    It is true that some ISPs — whether they are WISPs or not — do have to limit or prohibit bandwidth-hogging activities in order to offer economically priced service plans in areas where bandwidth is expensive and/or where the most economical available bandwidth is asymmetrical. In this case, the ISP is working hard FOR users by developing viable business models that work under difficult conditions and getting them the best possible deal on scarce and expensive bandwidth. Again, highly pro-consumer.

  4. By the way, David: YOU may have published a correction above, but Crawford lied to the group and has not retracted her false and misleading statement. She said, “As of 2012, the FCC has told us that most Americans will have just one choice for their high speed Internet access provider. It’ll be the cable monopoly.”

    Again, a complete falsehood. WISPs and non-cable, non-ILEC ISPs already cover more than 90% of the US population, and stand ready to provide them with as much bandwidth as they can afford to buy.

  5. My correction tries to make clear that I did a poor job liveblogging. My correction quotes what was actually on her slide. Her source is the FCC. So, you may disagree with Susan, but she didn’t lie.

    As for WISPs et al. providing “as much bandwidth as they can afford to buy,” here’s your rate sheet for comparison.

  6. Video of Susan’s comments:

  7. David, you did not do a poor job liveblogging. In fact, you did a fine job. You repeated, accurately, Ms. Crawford’s blatantly false and misleading statement. See the video at; her remark is about halfway through. You will see that she misrepresented what the FCC said – intentionally.

    Why are you covering for Susan’s lies?

    As for my ISP and its rate plans you’ll note that we can provide virtually any amount of bandwidth, and operate on razor-thin margins. We would offer lower retail prices if we could, but remember: we’re not a charity. Our employees work hard and deserve to be paid. We have to charge at least a little more at retail than we pay at wholesale.

  8. Wow, that is one lousy video player! I couldn’t find a way to fast forward. The quote is at about 54 minutes in. Without being able to rewind, I think the following is very close to being verbatim: “As of 2012, the FCC has told us that most Americans will have just one choice for their high speed Internet provider.”

    That seems to me to be just about exactly what the FCC has told us. In my amendment to my original post I have included the text of the slide behind her which adds more detail, completely accurately reflecting the FCC’s statement. In that amendment, I have also given you a link to the FCC document in which the FCC says exactly what Susan said they said.

  9. No, David, that is not even remotely “what the FCC has told us.” The FCC was not talking about “high speed” service, but rather about absurdly fast ultra-high-speed service — 50 Mbps or more — which no one at all actually needs. Further, it was only discussing wireline services. (Our wireless ISP can *already* provide speeds of more than 50 Mbps to many of our coverage areas.)

    Ms. Crawford — whose many lobbying groups are funded by Google — was lying, intentionally, to lobby for intensive regulation and/or nationalization of the Net. Plain and simple.

  10. I think Brett we are talking affordable broadband – how much do you charge for 50mpbs? Free choice of applications including Skype and BitTorrent?

    I doubt you are helping your cause with the hysterical astroturfing allegations.

  11. Ah – now you’re attempting to change what Susan said in an attempt to MAKE what she said something other than a lie. Sorry, no can do.

    But since you’ve brought up the separate topic of affordability, the fact is that I I am doing more than anyone to make bandwidth affordable than anyone. Right now, my wholesale cost of bandwidth is about $100 per Mbps at wholesale for symmetrical Figure a 5% profit margin and do the math. That’s the most affordable price you will get in our area from ANY provider, wired or wireless, for a business class connection, on which there are no use restrictions.

    Want a lower price? Well, we can get asymmetrical bandwidth for a bit less, and we can oversell. But this does mean some restrictions on behavior.

    But in any case, back to my earlier point: you have actually demonstrated that Susan was lying by trying to amend what she said, after the fact, to try to weasel out on her behalf. Oh, and it’s a fact that her lobbying organizations have received substantial support from Google, and that she likely owes her tenure in the White House to Google (which was a large campaign contributor). The question is, why are you defending her so stridently?

  12. So that 50mbps connection is $5000+5%/mth? Realistically speaking it would then seem that Susan is right, and my first point above is valid.

    I repeat: I doubt you are helping your cause with the hysterical astroturfing allegations.

  13. David, if you want a Hummer, you can have one, but you can expect to pay an uncomfortably large amount for gas. Likewise, if you want ridiculously huge amounts of bandwidth to waste, you can buy them.

    But don’t blame me for high prices. They’re imposed upon everyone here by Qwest. I’m competitive with what is available.

  14. Brett, let’s be clear. I liveblogged a paraphrase of Susan’s comments. You listened to the video and agreed that my paraphrase was accurate. I then quoted from the video (in the comments) to make sure the verbatim remark is on the record. You then accused me of “attempting to change what Susan said.” Huh?

    I have also presented what was on Susan’s slide behind her as she said what she said. I have given you the reference to the FCC document that supports what was on the slide behind her and that explains what she meant. Not a lot of lying going on.

    As for your pricing: Do you think 5mbps is a “ridiculously huge” amount of bandwidth to want? Your pricing for that is $550/month? DirecTV charges $104/month for 150 tv channels, local and long distance phone, and 7mbps Net in Laramie. I’m sure their service is much worse than yours, and they don’t guarantee their broadband speeds, but that’s a staggering price difference.

    Brett, I know you’d offer lower prices if you could. Of course you need to price above your costs, and you do so modestly. But, your problem isn’t the set of us (including Susan, last time I checked) who would love to see structural separation so that local, dedicated ISPs like you can thrive. Your problem is the telecommunication monopoly that the people you’re angriest at are working against.

  15. David, you’re attempting to change what Susan said by adding your own arbitrary minimum speed requirements and your own requirements for “affordability.” Won’t wash.

    Also, this is not the first time I’ve seen Susan lying. She does it constantly and pathologically. The first time I saw her do it was before a Congressional committee, where she claimed that broadband was a duopoly with no competition. I came up to her during a break in the hearing, and Chris Yoo even gave me a shout-out during the second half of the hearing — and yet SHE STILL CONTINUED TO DENY MY EXISTENCE AND THE EXISTENCE OF MY 4000+ COLLEAGUES. Why? Because it is obviously inconvenient to her arguments on behalf of her puppetmasters at Google that there is actually competition in the world of broadband.

    As for “structural separation:” it’s completely unnecessary to allow competition to flourish. I don’t need to rent raw fiber so long as I can get transport and bandwidth at reasonable prices. If this is accomplished simply by preventing the ILECs from price gouging (they’re currently pricing wholesale bandwidth above their retail prices) rather than by structural separation, that’s fine with me. And this approach avoids the problem of trying to “structurally separate” cable providers and WISPs. If you think that it was a nightmare for copper phone lines, that’s nothing compared to what a mess it would be with cable or wireless.

  16. Brett, I didn’t add my own minimum speed limits. I reported on what was on her slide, and the FCC document to which it referred. You may think the FCC’s definition of “high speed” is wrong or crazily wrong, but it was very clear on stage what Susan was referring to, since it was in large print behind her. That is the opposite of lying.

    As for Susan’s dismissing of your protest at her words before Congress, I feel like late in the session we are getting to the real cause of your pain. I obviously can’t speak for Susan, and have never spoken with her about this event, but I’ll speak for me: So long as ISPs like you are forced by price-gouging ILECs to charge substantially more (multiples, in your case) for the speeds I can get otherwise, ISPs are not a viable competitive option in this country. And that is a real shame.

    WRT structural separation: Would it work for you if the access providers were required to rent access to their lines to you at wholesale prices, rather than at higher than retail? Because that’s what many of us (in fact, most of us, I believe) mean by “structural separation.” See my please from 2007 . (Also perhaps here for Susan’s response.)

    Finally, people can disagree with you without being ignorant or liars. For example, I disagree with you – although, frustratingly, we actually are on the same side – but I think you’re extremely well-informed and honest about your views.



  19. The following time I read a blog, I hope that it doesnt disappoint me as much as this one. I mean, I do know it was my option to read, but I really thought youd have something interesting to say. All I hear is a bunch of whining about one thing that you can fix should you werent too busy on the lookout for attention.

Web Joho only

Comments (RSS).  RSS icon