A letter rebutting my letter to the Financial Times of March 8,2013 on the sorry competitive state of broadband in the U.S. was published in the same newspaper on March 15, 2013. It came from Harod E. Ford Jr. who is co-chairman with John Sununu. of a group called “Broadband for America.” The latter is a former Republican Senator from New Hampshire while Mr. Ford was the last chairman of the now defunct Democratic Leadership Council. According to its website, “Since September, 2009, the Broadband for America (BfA) coalition has grown to over 300 members ranging from independent consumer advocacy groups, to content and application providers, to the companies which build and maintain the internet. Together these organizations represent the hundreds of millions of Americans who are literally connected through broadband. The range of members of BfA is evidence of the importance which is being placed on the issues of broadband availability and broadband adoption. It is also evidence of BfA’s commitment to being a full participant on behalf of all stakeholders to provide a central clearinghouse for the latest thinking, the most advanced assessments, and the widest variety of views and opinions on the future of broadband in America.”
The self-styled BfA “coalition” includes the usual suspects Verizon, AT&T, and Comcast among its 300 members. Despite the diversity of its members the BfA’s pronouncements echo faithfully the assertions and policy positions of only its wealthiest adherents, i.e. these large network operators, as is seen yet again in the contents of Mr. Ford’s letter to the FT: “…the notion that the US is stuck in an internet slow lane is false. Some 97 per cent of the country has access to high-speed broadband – more than 80 per cent of US homes are passed by broadband wires hitting 100Mbps, “near the top of the world”, according to Julius Genachowski, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission. There is more competition (third globally in households with a choice of wired providers; 70 per cent of the world’s 4G LTE, the highest speed mobile service), as well as more universal access (second cheapest entry-class service in the OECD). Cherry picking data from very different countries such as South Korea only confuses your readers.” And, “”Private sector innovation will continue to strengthen America’s internet provided we avoid the archaic regulatory straitjacket Mr Luce (Note: The FT columnist who wrote an article pointing out the increasing lag of the U.S. in broadband) and Mr Roetter seem to crave.”
In other words, according to Mr. Ford international comparisons are misleading, wireless broadband is equivalent to fixed broadband, and competition is flourishing even though there are substantial numbers of households that have only one broadband supplier to choose from to enjoy services at speeds above about 3-5 Mbps that are rapidly becoming inadequate or even “obsolete” (to quote the CEO of AT&T).
The incestuous politico/lobbying/corporate complex in Washington is having an increasing, deeply embedded dysfunctional impact on the development of the U.S. economy and the interests of U.S. customers. One of the most unfortunate results of this unholy backscratching coalition is that the most striking evidence of bipartisan agreement lies not in the search for sensible and constructive compromises on policies and initiatives but in the continual repetition of the well-financed, misleading and unsupported assertions or talking points of self-serving special interests.