Bill Moyers sat down with Susan Crawford, a former special assistant to President Obama in science, technology and innovation and the author of Captive Audience: The Telecom Industry and Monopoly Power in the New Gilded Age, to discuss internet inequality — and how internet providers grossly overcharge for subpar internet service.
Crawford says that a lack of competition and tacit government approval has fostered the current environment: “What’s happened is that these enormous telecommunications companies, Comcast and Time Warner on the wired side, Verizon and AT&T on the wireless side, have divided up markets, put themselves in the position where they’re subject to no competition and no oversight from any regulatory authority. And they’re charging us a lot for internet access and giving us second class access.”
While some may view internet access as a luxury, Crawford says we have entered an age where its a necessity for essentially everyone: “You can’t apply for a job these days without going online. You can’t get access to government benefits adequately, you can’t start a business. This feels to 300 million Americans like a utility, like something that’s just essential for life. And the issue of how it’s controlled and how expensive it is and how few Americans actually sign up for it is not really on the radar screen.”
It’s yet another realm in which the divide between the rich and the poor continues to grow and deepen, she said.
But it’s not just the economically impoverished who lose out. Even those who can afford internet are getting a bad deal, she argues, claiming that in Hong Kong, “you can get a 500 megabit symmetric connection that’s unimaginably fast from our standpoint for about 25 bucks a month. In Seoul, for $30 you get three choices of different providers of fiber in your apartment. And they come in and install in a day because competition’s so fierce. In New York City there’s only one choice, and it’s 200 bucks a month for a similar service.”
“In most of America there is no government factor keeping these bullies from charging us whatever they want,” she said, adding later, “A few companies control access in America and it’s not in their interest to bring that fast, cheap access to us all.”
Watch the video, via billmoyers.com, below.