Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Read the link first

I love my job, but sometimes I have to put the vitriol in check when writing on certain subjects.  In this case, the published article is a good one, but leaves out a lot of the issues behind the problem.  Read the article in the link first, then scroll down to read what I wanted to say.

What I said:  National Broadband Plan aims to help U.S. compete in the global market

However did we get here? Lobbyists are holding America's internet access hostage
In February of this year, the Federal Communications Commission announced a plan that aims to increase competition among U.S. telecommunications companies with the intention of driving innovation and increasing access to higher internet speeds.  But the lobbyists won't allow it. 

According to the telecommunications giants, including Comcast and Time-Warner, they shouldn't have to allow competitors to pay to use fiber optic lines that the giants have run.  Of course, they also argue that they shouldn't have to run fiber optics to rural areas where there simply aren't enough customers to make it worth the immense cost of the projects.  However, these same telecomm giants are more than happy to move into areas where DSL, provided by companies such as Qwest and AT&T, has customers frustrated with slow internet speeds.

So, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has announced its intention and presented plans that will help America's internet access and speeds catch up with those enjoyed in Europe and Japan.  The  FCC also wants to increase competition among telecomm providers in order to drive down the cost of internet access- even in rural areas.  Because if you move to France, you can enjoy higher speed internet than is available in the States, bundled with air-card wireless for mobile devices, and cable television, and telephone service that allows unlimited free calls to over 70 other nations; all for about $35 USD per month.  I have to admit, Insight is ripping me off at $45 per month for a comparatively mediocre speed connection.  Unfortunately, France has more strict immigration laws than the U.S.  We probably can't get in just because our government gave itself over to lobbyists decades ago.

So many political debates in this country center around morality.  Even the healthcare reform argument ended up mired in moral debate.  Americans agree to disagree on so many things, but we keep missing the big picture.  America is a young nation, and we tend to take ourselves too seriously as such.  Europe fights against special interest groups because the people feel that they have actual power to affect the government, and don't waste a bunch of time yelling about other things.  But this new revelation that America is lagging far behind other countries in technology and internet access isn't a moral issue.  It is an issue for the people to take up and unite against giant corporate lobbyists.

There is no good to allowing companies to hold America back in technology.  When we allow lobbyists to get in the way of projects and legislation that push our technology forward, what the American people get is left behind.  We already have a problem wherein school age children do not have equitable internet access, and those who do not have larger barriers to overcome as they struggle to make a better life.  The fact is, we need widespread access to the fastest possible internet connection if our children are going to be able to compete in a global economy.  Heck, we need it now if we are going to compete in the global economy. 

I encourage my fellow geeks to read up on and educate yourselves about this particular fight for the betterment of the lives of the American people.  Educate yourselves, then start educating your representatives.  Tell them that big business does not have our best interests in mind, and are willing to sacrifice the future of America for dollars in the bank right now.  And geeks, the next time you go to the polls, I urge you to vote for the candidates in your area that are most likely to join the FCC in this fight.  If we win, our MMORPGs will run faster.  

Ending the Internet's Trench Warfare by Yochai Benkler

Effort to Widen US Internet Access Sets Up Battle by Brian Stelter and Jenna Wortham

Next Generation Connectivity, a study commissioned by the FCC
The National Broadband Plan site has a test to run on your connection, and an easy way to report Broadband Dead Zones

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