For almost 20 years, AT&T, Verizon and the other big players have collected hundreds of billions of dollars through rate increases and surcharges to finance that ambitious plan, but after wiring the high-density big cities, they now say it’s too expensive to connect the rest of the country. But they’d like to keep all that money they banked for the project.
In 2010, the Federal Communications Commission announced the National Broadband Plan, which promised to provide 100 million American households with high-speed cable by 2020. Verizon has been expanding FiOS in major markets, and AT&T has been expanding its U-verse service. And now, instead of spending that war chest digging up streets and laying fiber cable, the cable and telephone companies have invested in a massive and very successful lobbying push. They are persuading state legislatures and regulatory boards to quietly adopt new rules—rules written by the telecoms—to eliminate their legal obligations to provide broadband service nationwide and replace landlines with wireless. This abrupt change in plans will leave vast areas of the country with poor service, slow telecommunications and higher bills.
This is good news if you own stock in Verizon, but very bad news if you have a small business that’s not in a city already wired up.
The federal government’s official broadband map shows vast areas of America still have little or no service, and many areas will never get it under the current plan. “Small business customers, people who work at home and rural communities across the country need to wake up before it is too late,” says Regina Costa, telecommunications research director for the Utility Reform Network in California. “Verizon and AT&T are aggressively moving to dump a large percentage of their landlines and force customers to wireless networks [that] are expensive, restrictive, incompatible with medic-alert services, less reliable for 911 calls and will not hold up during power outages—and in a lot of places wireless just won’t work.”
[It ought to be criminal, but it’s nothing if not corrupt. I’m not a big fan of the Feds taking on projects, but this is one they should. Take the money back form the telcos that aren’t interested, and like the rural telephone work, get the whole country wired with fiber. Probably can be done with a rounding error off the budget… how stupid can we be?]