What’s the “open Internet” all about

by Richard @ Flexible Reality – June 6th, 2017

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From its inception at the turn of the 20th Century, American phone service came from only one provider: AT&T, and the equivalent to today’s set-top box was the phone itself, which was leased from AT&T by customers much as current subscribers ‘rent’ their set top box from Comcast . Until the late 70’s end users could not legally attach equipment to their residential phone line which had not been approved, and licensed, by AT&T or its wholly owned subsidiary Western Electric. By the early 80’s with the ascension of MCI and the breakup of AT&T combined with the opening up of hardware protocols there was an explosion of phone connected devices: fax, answering machines, security monitors, etc.

The typical cost of service also declined in that period due to the additional competition from OEMs. A similar circumstance has now arrived focusing on TV set top boxes versus open access Internet, OTA, cable, and satellite distribution equipment. Just as Craigslist destroyed the monopoly local newspapers exerted over classified ads, the open Internet is destroying network TV and closed system ad supported cable.

The crux of the ‘open Internet’ movement focuses on forcing the FCC to preserve, protect, defend, and extend an open Internet, while simultaneously preventing the conversion of service providers into giant monopolies. Until there is a new technology to supersede the copper cable last mile lines most Americans have extremely limited access to multiple broadband providers. In fact, it has been estimated by the FCC there are no ISPs at all in 30 percent of developed census blocks which provide the 25Mbps download/3Mbps upload broadband standard.

The majority of the end user population in suburban and rural areas have one broadband provider available. In 2012, over 60% of U.S. Internet users had only DSL service from their local phone companies. There has been extensive effort by service providers to merge or buy out rivals. If the 2016 attempt by Charter Communications to buy cable rivals Time Warner Cable (TWC) and Bright House Networks (BHN) had been approved, just two Internet service providers, Charter and Comcast, would have controlled about 70 percent of the nation’s 25Mbps-and-up broadband subscriptions. At the same time, the two companies which are routinely ranked the worst companies in America by consumers points to Comcast as the worst, following closely by Charter.

When viewed from an international standpoint America’s internet service system mirrors its medical care standing, that is it pays more, and receives less than citizens in other OECD nations can obtain. The two most often referenced nations with the best quality Internet service systems are South Korea, and Singapore, where 100/10mbps service can be obtained from a dozen or more providers at a local cost equivalent to $30/mo US, or less than half the rate charged by Comcast.  From a reprint article in Fastmetrics the differences are clear.

“According to PCMag, better government planning in South Korea has improved internet connection speeds across the country dramatically. Additionally, a competitive Korean ISP market has led to exceptional service levels for end users. In the city of Cheongju, average internet speeds to citizens of 124.5Mbps are standard. Further, 1Gbps internet plans are available in South Korea for just $20 USD.”

In fact, in comparative metrics, America’s Internet system does not even rank in the top ten worldwide. While some of this can be attributed to population densities that is not a suitable defense as over half the U.S. population lives within a hundred miles of the coasts.  Even more distressing is the report that for the country that created the Internet, their standing internationally ranks lower in each new annual survey. Our average connection speed is about 14mbps, three times the global average; but only half as fast as South Korea, again at more than double the cost.

 

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