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2017 in Review and a Preview of 2018 - Community Broadband Bits Podcast 286
It is that time of year - as 2017 draws to a close, we pulled Nick, Hannah, Lisa, and myself back into a podcast to talk about the predictions we made one year ago on episode 234. And despite having to deal with our failed predictions from last year, we dive right into making more predictions for next year.
Along the way, we talk about the lessons we are taking away from 2017 and thinking more broadly about 2018.
We talk about net neutrality, cooperatives, preemptive state laws, consolidation, and even start with me going on a mostly-unneeded rant about radio.
So give the show a listen, and then start forming your own local Broadband and Beers informal group to begin organizing locally around better Internet access!
We want your feedback and suggestions for the show-please e-mail us or leave a comment below.
Listen to other episodes here or view all episodes in our index. See other podcasts from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance here.
Thanks to Arne Huseby for the music. The song is Warm Duck Shuffle and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license.
Lisa Gonzalez: Hey everybody. Welcome to Community Broadband Bits Podcast. This is episode 286.
Christopher Mitchell: Also, known as, it's been five and a half, or six and a half years, or something. Can you believe we're still around?
Lisa Gonzalez: Today, we're going to do our annual prediction show, and we're going to be talking about what we predicted last year for this year, and then we're going to also create some predictions for 2018. I think we should start with the elephant in the room, that is network neutrality. Somebody make an elephant noise. Awesome, Nick. By the way, we have Nick, here, along with Hannah.
Nick Stumo-Langer: I just came from DC to do that, I'm actually not going to talk on this podcast anymore.
Hannah Trostle: Hello, everyone.
Lisa Gonzalez: Okay. The first thing we need to do is we need to start with a quote, and this is the quote we're starting with, "No good will come out of the FCC," any guesses, anybody? Any guesses?
Nick Stumo-Langer: Aristotle.
Lisa Gonzalez: Chris?
Christopher Mitchell: I think I should go by fearless leader, now.
Lisa Gonzalez: That's right, fearless leader. You're the one who said it when we were talking about [the] FCC, and yes, that ended up happening. Let's talk a little bit about network neutrality. We didn't really make a specific prediction last year, whether or not it would be revoked.
Christopher Mitchell: My prediction would have been, it would not have been, because I thought it would take longer, I literally didn't think that they would do it so quickly, but when you just say, "Hey, who cares about the public process, you can do things really quickly."
Lisa Gonzalez: Right. And, I think we were all in general agreement with that. But, let's just do a prediction on it right now, while we're talking about it. In general, I'd like to start with Chris, what do you think is going to be the reaction to this?
Christopher Mitchell: We're seeing a lot more organizing at the local level. People are taking this very seriously. I think that we will see the beginnings of a movement that's kind of like the environmental movement, but it will be for the internet, for people that want to make sure that internet access is preserved, and that it's not dominated by massive companies. I think people are rightfully afraid. The internet could turn into radio, which by the way I listened to this morning. I think radio in almost any urban area is a disaster. It was all ads. It was bad music. It was totally uninspiring. It was stupid talk. There's a fear that the internet could turn into that, and then basically be a very promising technology that is wasted by a monopoly capitalist system.
Nick Stumo-Langer: To those of you rebroadcasting this on a community radio network, thank you so much for your support.
Christopher Mitchell: No. I think community radio people would be one of the first people to admit that radio is a disaster, and in fact it is only these few outposts where you can actually have creative content that it sets it apart from all the rest of commercial radio, where you have freaking, like three people probably own half of the radio in the United States. It's awful.
Lisa Gonzalez: Chris, it's really all about internet radio, now. No one listens to the actual radio.
Christopher Mitchell: We're like three minutes into this show, and my heart rate is already up at an alarming level. One of the things that I think we will see is more of these broadband and beers kinds of events. We've seen them in Longmont, and Fort Collins, and in Colorado, where people get together, and they talk about these sorts of things, and I think that will lead to more local organizing, and local action. I really hope that people are starting to think about this. They're spreading the word on social media, saying, "Hey, next Tuesday a bunch of us will just get together at a local bar, that's locally owned, and we'll talk about this issue, and we'll see what happens, and we'll start organizing around it." That's what's going to be happening in 2018, I think. That will lead to action toward the end of the year, in general, to try and prevent more consolidation and basically corporate destruction of the internet.
Nick Stumo-Langer: Yeah. Chris, kind of going off of that, I really do think that the state level action, and the local level action about this is activating a lot, a lot of people. It's actually responsibility of organizations like ours, organizations like some of our allies to turn that activation into something productive, and I think that the broadband and beer is something that you're really good at as a model, and I think that, that's what we need to do is tell those stories of people, and I think, Lisa, that means you're probably going to be writing up a lot of stories about these kinds of events all over the place.
Christopher Mitchell: Lisa, I'm curious. You're a legal beagle, not a legal eagle.
Lisa Gonzalez: Boo.
Christopher Mitchell: And, I'm curious where you think this will be in one year? Will we have any resolution in the courts?
Lisa Gonzalez: No. We will probably be in court. There will be at least one lawsuit. I don't know at what level it will be. I would imagine it will probably still be within the first process, and I would imagine that it would be probably one lawsuit that has been a combination of different party's filing a lawsuit against the FCC.
Hannah Trostle: I agree with Lisa on this. I think it'll be at least a couple of years before we see net neutrality again.
Christopher Mitchell: I just wanted to make it clear for people who are listening, we will not be filing a lawsuit. It's sort of beyond us, and we are supporters of network neutrality, but we tend not to get as involved in these battles where there are already really great organizations fighting. We tend to focus on areas where no one's really working and trying to really push things along, more around the municipal network. We will not, ourselves, be filing lawsuits, although, I think there will be many lawsuits filed. I'll be curious to see if any of them get wrapped up, I mean, some of them will be quite easy to wrap up, I mean, the FCC very clearly violated some aspects of the Administrative Procedures Act with some of their decisions that had not been properly noticed and commented. Other aspects, things that we really care about will certainly take longer to wrap up. I agree.
Nick Stumo-Langer: My prediction for net neutrality and really looking at this in the future is this is going to be a way that people can understand the issue of concentration and monopoly in our economy. It is a tangible thing that they can look at and say, "We do not, we cannot have these providers having such sway over our internet access," and this helps us as a bridge for ILSR, because I'm more of the general person for ILSR on this podcast to be able to bridge into things like energy. To bridge into things like retail, and tech, and those types of things. I think this is a really, really useful moment that millions of people are really, really mad about this.
Lisa Gonzalez: You're right, Nick, a lot of people are really mad, and actually that will lead us into what I think is the next topic, state laws. As Chris pointed out, earlier, people are really upset about this, and there's been a lot of interest in local communities establishing their own municipal networks. We've seen a lot of articles written about. People have contacted us at a little bit higher rate than normal. As I think there will be a reaction to that, I think there's going to be even more bills introduced at the state level than there usually is that are potential barriers to local authority. Now, let's ...
Christopher Mitchell: Nope.
Lisa Gonzalez: Let's go back to last year. Last year, we were kind of looking at this as sort of a competition as to who predicted what, and how correct they were.
Christopher Mitchell: And, let's just put the big news upfront, Nick, was so wrong.
Nick Stumo-Langer: To set the record straight, because you can go back into our transcripts even, I said I was going to be bold, and that I hoped I was wrong, and I just really wanted to stir a controversy. I'm not taking a full L on this one.
Christopher Mitchell: This is classic Trump. Classic Trump from Nick, here, right now, which is you tweet out ridiculous things on both sides, so you can always say, "I was right. I was definitely right."
Lisa Gonzalez: Controversy stirred, Nick. Okay.
Christopher Mitchell: Nick, it's really great to have you back in Minnesota. Thanks for coming home.
Lisa Gonzalez: 15 states you predicted would have bills introduced to restrict local authority. Hannah, had predicted 10. Chris, had predicted five, and I had predicted between zero and five. There were six that we know that were introduced, but out of those several of those were not, didn't really go anywhere.
Hannah Trostle: We had a fight about whether to count them.
Christopher Mitchell: Well, to be clear, and you can go back and listen, or read the transcript, we were talking about serious fights. My position is that Lisa won the bet-
Lisa Gonzalez: Yay.
Christopher Mitchell: Even though, if we went by just how many bills were introduced, then I would have won the forecast.
Lisa Gonzalez: There you go. I win the satisfaction of winning.
Christopher Mitchell: And, just to refresh the folks, the biggest one was Virginia, and then there was a lot of coverage of the Michigan issue, although, in Michigan the bill was not actually, it never really went anywhere in the legislature. It was a bigger media fight, because people freaked out at how stupid it was. Then there was things that most people didn't notice, like there was Maine, and Alabama, and Georgia, maybe had a little bit, and one other that I'm forgetting. Oh, Colorado. Missouri was one, and Colorado, I think, it didn't even get introduced but it was close.
Lisa Gonzalez: Chris, you had thought that in Tennessee, and North Carolina, the states would actually rollback the rules.
Christopher Mitchell: Well, if you go back to the transcript, I love these transcripts, I should thank Jeff Hoel for getting us started in doing that.
Lisa Gonzalez: Yes, thank you, Jeff. We love you, Jeff.
Christopher Mitchell: We started talking about it, and I predicted that in North Carolina that they would allow Pinetops to continue being connected but that they wouldn't do anything else. Then I was talking about how bullish I was on Tennessee, removing the barriers to Chattanooga, expanding in the other municipal networks that are doing so well. I talked myself into saying that I was going to be bold, I followed Nick's path of error, and I was bold in saying North Carolina would roll it back, but instead North Carolina really focused on just really the republicans doing everything they could to try to stop Roy Cooper who was elected governor from doing anything. Unfortunately, North Carolina has been more focused on political controversy than actually any sort of thing that would actually make the state better off.
Lisa Gonzalez: Right. You know, what that does is it points out that we don't have a crystal ball, and there's all these other external factors that really can influence what happens in telecommunications.
Nick Stumo-Langer: Especially, I think Michigan is a good case for this, knowing from the press releases we're sending out, and keeping track of these types of things, Michigan, was really a surprise, because they have a different kind of legislative calendar then a lot of these other states, and we were actually preparing kind of talking about what types of things are going to come up in the beginning of the year when a lot of state legislatures are in session, and then we were hit by this bill that would be really awful. I think it's instructive that we take these cases where it's actually kind of ridiculous the ways that they're carving out things, so municipalities cannot get access to funding for municipal broadband, or even exploring their options, and we point out, and we say, "Why are you making this argument?" I would agree with Chris, you know, we did focus on the big fights, but also we need to call out the faulty logic in the small fights that can just pop up randomly, as well.
Christopher Mitchell: I'm curious to see what Hannah wants to say about this, but I feel like in general where democrats have power, they are totally failing to explain to rural America, or rural Minnesota, or rural North Carolina why they should start voting for democrats. I don't say this because I think people should be voting for democrats, our position is generally that we think whoever you vote for you should be demanding better representation from them, but it is very clear to us that in general the republicans have been doing a poor job of representing rural areas, because of all of the money that's going to the big carriers, the lack of investment in rural areas, and whatnot. What I'm finding interesting is I feel like there is a market opportunity, almost, for democrats, and they seem unable to talk to people in rural areas in part because I think they in some ways think of them as being more simple, and only interested in guns, or abortion, or something, and it just frustrates me as someone who cares so much about economics to see year after year the democratic party failing to make this an issue. There's no one competing for votes in rural America, I feel like. I would like to see people in North Carolina and elsewhere, you know, I'd like to see democrats really coming forward, the bold vision to actually connect these people to the internet, and force the republican party to actually do something other than shoveling money at the incumbents.
Hannah Trostle: Yeah. Sometimes it feels like the democratic party base their platform on all the billboards that they read in rural areas, rather than on what rural communities actually want, so many times in urban areas when I'm talking about internet service for rural communities, urban people are like, "But, what do they need it for? How does that work?" It's very simple that they haven't seen the connection between what they do and everyday life, also happens in rural areas. Just because it takes 20 minutes to get to a Walmart doesn't mean that they don't need to go there.
Christopher Mitchell: As we're sort of, I think we've wrapped up where we thought we might be, dealing with the state legislature, I would predict for the next year that there will be no new barriers that are enacted, and I think we will see fewer than five proposed. I think state elected officials have finally gotten the message, or at least leadership in these states has gotten the message that cracking down to move options for local internet choice is unpopular, so I predict that most of the bills we see this year will actually be to improve internet access in local internet choice. They'll be trying to empower municipalities, or perhaps protecting privacy, or things like that. I think we are past the area in which we have to seriously worry about barriers going through. It doesn't mean we can lower our guard. The reason that we will see few barriers is because we are ready to take them on, and we have people that are having beer together that are ready to get out in the streets and to organize to stop them. I think that's going to send a message, and we're going to see fewer barriers proposed.
Hannah Trostle: I think a lot of states will also be looking at what laws are on the record regarding coops, and removing some of the smaller barriers that they didn't even know where there. That happened just this year in Tennessee.
Lisa Gonzalez: I want to hear more about coops, but for the record I disagree with Chris, and I think there will be six or more.
Christopher Mitchell: I just want to pull out a quote from last year that hasn't come up yet.
Lisa Gonzalez: Okay.
Christopher Mitchell: Which is another quote from me, which I'm going to rate as possibly my best prediction, we all think the federal government is just going to say, "Rural America you can suck it," that was my quote and I'm standing by it. The federal government has basically told rural America, which overwhelmingly elected the republicans who are running this country, the federal government have turned their back on rural America.
Lisa Gonzalez: That's right, and we were all talking about that quote in the other room when we were preparing for this discussion, and we wanted to bring that up, as well. I think the rest of us are in agreement that, that still stands. Hannah?
Hannah Trostle: Sure.
Lisa Gonzalez: Nick?
Nick Stumo-Langer: Definitely.
Lisa Gonzalez: Hannah, cooperatives, are they going to help rural America?
Hannah Trostle: Yeah, definitely. Just this past year we have seen so many more cooperatives coming out of the woodwork and building internet service out to these far flung rural areas. I imagine that will just continue into this next year.
Christopher Mitchell: I predict in one year, when we're sitting here in the office, Hannah, might be at grad school, but we'll call her in, we're going to see more than 105. I'm predicting there is going to be, I was predicting a 100 by the end of the year, I'm going to be bold and say that next year we'll have a 105 rural electric coops that are offering some kind of service to businesses and residents.
Hannah Trostle: That almost feels like a conservative estimate.
Lisa Gonzalez: What's your number?
Hannah Trostle: I was thinking closer to a 150.
Lisa Gonzalez: Ewe.
Hannah Trostle: But, I was also counting partnerships with telephone coops.
Lisa Gonzalez: Sounds good. Partnerships, I was wondering about that, too, because we had also discussed that for the 2017 discussion. We had predicted, and I think we were mostly right that we weren't going to see a whole lot of movement on new partnerships. That there was a lot of chitchat but not a lot of action. I think that's correct.
Christopher Mitchell: Yeah. I think that's accurate in the sense that we define partnerships, which is both sides sort of actively taking a role. There has been more of these things that are called partnerships, where you may have the public sector building something and leasing it to the private sector, or something like that. That's a model that, again, we like all models, that's a perfectly valid model, but it's not what we would call a partnership. It's just an open access, or a lease arrangement, which is I think, again, is perfectly fine, it's just not the kind of partnership we see in Westminster, or we saw with the Urbana, Champagne communities, it's not even, I mean, where Huntsville, and Google is a lease arrangement, yet it wast kind of more a partnership than typical lease arrangements. I think we may see a few in 2018. I think that people are still trying to figure out how to do this. I still think that the best approach to move forward is looking at the city building assets itself, and leasing them, which again is in some ways what Westminster is doing, but the way that they have the financial arrangement with Ting makes it more of a partnership. I said there would be no more of those, really, I don't think we had a true partnership developed in 2017, so I'd stick by that.
Lisa Gonzalez: Hannah, and I have been talking about pole attachments. Now, not necessarily as they relate to partnerships, but she had made a prediction for 2017. She had predicted that more cities would be passing ordinances that dealt with one touch make ready, and related type smaller ordinances and rules that would help to advance an environment that would improve internet access. Do you want to comment on that, Hannah?
Hannah Trostle: What I actually said was I didn't think city's wold be doing a whole lot with poles this year and instead would be focusing on other small ordinances.
Lisa Gonzalez: Oh, okay. Sorry.
Hannah Trostle: Because I thought poles were too controversial.
Lisa Gonzalez: Oh, that's right. Okay.
Hannah Trostle: But as it turns out, a couple cities this year had several good thing happen with poles. Like, San Antonio, Texas passed an ordinance around that for One Touch Make Ready Policy. Louisville, Kentucky turned out okay.
Christopher Mitchell: Which is to say that they won their court case.
Hannah Trostle: That is perhaps more accurate. They did win their court case. This year I actually think there will be more One Touch Make Ready policies put in place.
Christopher Mitchell: Hey, all. Don't forget us in your year end giving. Hey, if you still have a few dollars left you can ship them to us to make more great content, do research, and make sure that we are generally providing the kinds of news and information that will help us to defeat the big cable and telephone monopolies. It's worth noting that when you support us it doesn't just make us feel good, and pay the bills, it also makes us get through those hard days when we've been punched in the mouth by the FCC, because knowing that you care enough to send us some money to make sure we can keep the doors open it really is helpful in those times when we're down, and I'm afraid we have a few of them a head of us. Please donate at ILSR.org/donate. Once again, that's ILSR.org/donate. Now, back to our prediction show.
Lisa Gonzalez: As far as large cities go, last year, Christopher, you had predicted that you thought there might be more larger sized cities that would be looking more seriously and maybe even investing in municipal networks. Now, we know San Francisco's taking it seriously. Seattle's still sort of on the table.
Christopher Mitchell: Not really.
Lisa Gonzalez: Okay.
Christopher Mitchell: Seattle has great work from Upgrade Seattle. They're a real model for how people can get involved and organized to push the city. The city has taken some steps to include broadband in its long-term planning, but the new mayor was pretty unequivocal that she is in the pocket of Comcast, and CenturyLink-
Lisa Gonzalez: That's right.
Christopher Mitchell: From what I can tell.
Lisa Gonzalez: That's right. I remember. Anyway, San Francisco. Any other? Do you think that's going to continue? Do you think there will be more larger cities?
Christopher Mitchell: I don't know. I'm curious to see. I mean, New York City has an RFP out, I believe, they're looking for an RFI of some sort where they are looking for proposals to where the city might invest in partners. That could take care of both our partner prediction and our large city prediction. I do think we'll see large cities continuing to try to figure this out, if only because of that net neutrality ruling, now. They're very concerned. This gets into a prediction of mine, and I'm curious Nick, what you think about it coming from the heart of DC, which is that I think we will see because of the net neutrality reversal I think we'll see some kind of harmless prioritization schemes where AT&T or Comcast will be creating some kind of products that engage in prioritization around telemedicine in order to just try and get people comfortable with the idea, so that later they can engage in other kinds of shenaniganery. Yes, shenaniganery with our connections.
Nick Stumo-Langer: You know, I think it's an interesting question, Chris, and I think really what we're looking at is it seems like twofold. Getting people used to the idea of paid prioritization, you know, through a helpful, I would even say not harmless, a helpful, like prioritizing telemedicine, or prioritizing those types of things that we really like. Then there's also the other route that I think is more likely that there's not going to be anything on prioritization, I think they're going to stay off of it for a year, until some of these legal cases kind of clear out and then they're going to start edging things in very slowly. I think everyone, and like I was saying before, a lot of people are paying attention right now. These ISP's know that they're already super, super unpopular. If they start monkeying around with it now, I think, that they might face a bigger backlash, and actually I think that this kind of leads into kind of trying to decide if we think that they're smart, or if they are foolish and they want to punch too hard, and overplay their hand.
Christopher Mitchell: Let's bring Hannah and Lisa in to see what they think. I'm definitely curious if they would back you, or back me in terms of where they're closer too, but let me just note in terms of their intelligence, they might be more intelligent than we are, because they won the net neutrality thing, and Comcast and AT&T just announced rate hikes in a bunch of areas. They don't feel the pressure, even right now when they're supposed to be on their best behavior, supposedly. Lisa, what is your expectation in terms of prioritization or other obvious abuses of net neutrality?
Lisa Gonzalez: There is evidence that they're already abusing network neutrality as we pointed out before, so I think they're just going to continue with what they're already doing and I think it's going to be like the boiling frog syndrome, they're just going to continue to ramp it up. But I think that they're embolden, and I think that they realize that the time that they have now is short lived, so I think that they are going to go ahead and go for the gusto and get what they can as long as they can. I think that they are banking on inactivity from people, I don't know if things are going to change in the near future, but I would say by the end of the year they'll be more obvious about breaking what we would consider network neutrality tenants.
Hannah Trostle: I actually agree with Nick. I think they going to play the long game and not push their luck immediately.
Lisa Gonzalez: Within this year, Hannah?
Hannah Trostle: Within this year. I imagine within the next, all of my predictions are three years out.
Christopher Mitchell: I like it. We'll have to write all those down and make sure we don't lose the note.
Lisa Gonzalez: I'm going to doctor the record.
Christopher Mitchell: That all came about talking about the large cities. I think we will continue to see large cities thinking about this, making smaller investments. I really hope Madison, which is a 300,000-isch does move forward with a citywide network that they're talking about, they're looking for partners.
Nick Stumo-Langer: I will note that people from or around Madison do not want to be called a large city, so they will say they are a small city, so take that Chris.
Christopher Mitchell: Well, that's fair enough. There is wiggle room in the definition thanks to the imprecision of the English language. Nonetheless, larger cities, I think, will be more likely to do these sorts of things because they will be dealing with residence and businesses that feel like they are really captured. Now, I want to, so Lisa-
Lisa Gonzalez: No.
Christopher Mitchell: The question is with the AT&T, Time Warner merger, which the Department of Justice has said that it does not want to see happen, what will happen?
Lisa Gonzalez: It's bittersweet. It's so bittersweet. I do not think it will happen.
Christopher Mitchell: You think AT&T and Time Warner next year will not be the same company?
Lisa Gonzalez: I think that they'll just withdraw the whole thing.
Christopher Mitchell: I think that's my hope, and I think you're right. I think the Department of Justice has a good case, even though the Trump administration is probably engaging in blatant crony capitalism.
Lisa Gonzalez: Agreed.
Christopher Mitchell: Over CNN.
Lisa Gonzalez: Agreed.
Christopher Mitchell: You know, it's unfortunate and I certainly don't think that I would be supporting this if the Department of Justice hadn't put forth such a good justification for blocking it. I hope that, that will slow down other mergers, but Nick as a fellow host of the building local power podcast, I just want to insert broadband in there somewhere, it's just my instinct, what are you thinking about mergers in the next year?
Nick Stumo-Langer: I don't think we're going to see a merger that divides the advocates who are concerned about concentrated economic power like the AT&T and Time Warner merger, but I don't think particularly that the Trump administration will do anything about the mergers that are up right now, or ones that are going to be announced in the future. The Trump DOJ antitrust had, is a former mergers and acquisitions lawyer and lobbyist, and maybe there is some foul play with CNN, however, again, I don't think that this should happen on the merits, and I think we're going to look at AT&T and Time Warner, Bayer, Monsanto, CVS, Aetna. We're going to look at all these things in the future, and either from our dystopian Health Scape where everything is by and large like in Wally, or we're going to look at it and say, "This was a turning point, where people stood up and said, "This is not okay. We cannot consolidate all these industries under a single entity anymore, because this is just too dangerous for our economy and our political economy."
Lisa Gonzalez: Hannah?
Hannah Trostle: I think most of the mergers will go through. I think the AT&T, Time Warner merger will go through, but I'm not happy about it. I do not have a hopeful outlook for this upcoming year as far as mergers go, guys.
Christopher Mitchell: This is a great time to throw in the continued consolidation that I expect to see from the municipal side, and sort of the small-scale consolidation. We have Schurz, it looks like they bought Burlington Telecom against our advice. We see Bristol, Virginia as is going to finally be privatized, shortly. The number of small firms that we've long thought were extemporarily localized P's-
Lisa Gonzalez: HBC.
Christopher Mitchell: Have been bought. Yes. Exactly, they're one of them, has been bought. I expect to see more consolidation in that space. I think that the net neutrality rulings and the general sense from the federal communications commission, the entire federal government that they're just going to allow monopolies to exert pressure on their rivals, means that they're rivals have to get bigger in order to be competitive. I think we're going to see more consolidation. I think we'll see, I'll say, five cities that we might be surprised by, can sell their network. I will be incredibly disappointed and angry for those weeks, whenever that happens, if it happens on a Tuesday for the rest of the week I'll be angry in the office. I'm sorry about that guys. You are all going to have to bear the brunt of that, but we're going to see some cities selling their networks, and they're going to make money at it and they're going to temporary think it was a good idea, because running these networks is difficult, but in the long-term they're going to be screwed. They're going to just be stuck with another monopoly, and it may not be a monopoly tomorrow, but in 10 years I'll bet you that there are very few local companies left that are on these consolidation sprees. This consolidation is a way to ultimately sell to a national player that will pay them a lot of money. I'm very fearful of consolidation at the local level, and I'm also fearful of continued consolidation of Backhaul. I feel like the markets are being distorted, and it makes it harder to establish competition, even as we see more energy to create competition in the local space it will be harder to sustain that in the face of the kind of rivals that are being created.
Lisa Gonzalez: I agree. I think you're right. I mean, you can only go so far with your local network then you have to connect to something and if that's only controlled by one person, or one company, and they tell you what's happening. You are stuck. You know? I agree with you, only I don't think it'll be five that will be privatized, I'm guessing it will be fewer. I'm saying three or less. Anybody else have any other predictions before we wrap her up?
Nick Stumo-Langer: My prediction that's a little bit outside of the conversation we've had, it really focuses on media and coverage of the kinds of things that we're interested in, in the Community Broadband Networks Initiative, I think that there's going to be more coverage of all the different kinds of models, and options that cities and broader communities have, specifically in response to the net neutrality fight, but also just in subpar internet access generally, I think that this is an issue where more general business reporters, general political reporters are sitting up, taking a little bit more notice and kind of getting out of the silo of covering internet access from a corporate boardroom, or from the FCC. I think that there are going to be more stories of people and how they've gotten better connectivity, which is a great space for us to be in, because we have those stories at MuniNetworks and we have the experience. We're talking to these people all the time, and like we've said, before, there's a range of models and it's what's right for your community, and I think that a lot of the journalists are really kind of trying to get their heads around this, and we can help them with that, so that's good.
Christopher Mitchell: Let's end on a note of something that I think is quite positive, and I don't know if this is a prediction, we can just fake a prediction out of the end of it, but it's around the media coverage. Nick, you just made me think, a year ago I don't think Jon Brodkin was writing so fiercely against the cable and telephone companies in the way that we see today from Ars Technica, from Motherboard. There's some really good writing that's being done from legitimate tech press that basically says, we can't reprint these lies from the cable and telephone companies. When the cable and telephone companies, or some of the FCC commissioners come out and they just say things like, "The internet was never regulated before 2015," which is so obviously wrong on so many different levels because let's just be clear, net neutrality was a norm, it was enforced under other rules that it later turned out were not enforceable. Prior to that they were still considered rules that had to be followed, and even prior to that the federal government for many years required that anyone who owned telecommunications like wires for DSL, or for dial up had to share them with everyone, which was far more big government, far more overreaching, stifling, whatever you want to claim. These people that are opposing net neutrality are saying. These are claims that are ridiculous, and if my son, who's just learning how to talk were to say them I would say stop lying, Jackson. My point is just that we see legitimate press saying this is ridiculous and I think that's good, but I also think that's bad, and I'm worried about it, because we're losing an ability to have a shared conversation, and I'm just curious if anyone else has any thoughts on this sort of shape that we're seeing in the media, where some of these lies have pushed media past its breaking point. To where they just say, "We cannot reprint this crap."
Nick Stumo-Langer: I think what you're seeing is a response by many legitimate media organizations to these lies, and also it bears out in the report, and the polling about what people want from net neutrality, or from internet service providers. I think you're worried that we might not be able to have this full conversation as predicated on some of the fake news type things, the choosing your facts, and all that, but there is a point where the rubber meets the road and if you're not able to get a certain service from a provider and you have no other option, it's an easy thing for anyone regardless of their political affiliation to notice. What I think it might actually be is these reporters are channeling some of the legitimate rage of many people for the cable monopoly lies that we see. This is a breaking point and it's only because you've been so frustrated before with the opposite problem, that why are these major outlets publishing what Comcast is telling them? Why are these major outlets publishing what AT&T tells them without questioning it? It's making you uncomfortable because it's a big sea change to see them challenging the kind of power that exists, and I think that it's finally them sitting up and saying something.
Hannah Trostle: I think part of it, too, is the media just feels like it needs to respond much faster, so it's really simple to reprint a specific thing, a spokesman said. It can add to the story, but without the specific context of how the market actually works and what the spokesperson is trying to get across, everyone who's listening to that isn't really getting the whole story.
Christopher Mitchell: Yeah. I think it's worth calling out that some people like Phil Dampier, Stop the Cap, and Karl Bode, and basically Mike Masnick and people at Techdirt, DSL Reports. Some people have been calling this out for a while, and it's been wonderful being able to read their voices, and Ars Technica, and other places like Motherboard with Vice, which has gone in this direction, more in terms of calling out on it, just calling out lies straight up. It is interesting that we're seeing a little bit of the blurring of the lines, I think, between a willingness to call out the official spokespeople and say, "No. This is ridiculous. It's too much."
Nick Stumo-Langer: It's called investigative reporting.
Christopher Mitchell: Yeah, I guess, I'm just curious to see where it goes. I mean, my sense is that in a year, you know, we'll see people accusing Ars Technica of being fake news, maybe. I think unfortunately everything is becoming politicized and we're already seeing it with some of the folks from American Enterprise Institute and things like that who are unabashed supporters of the big incumbents are saying that Jon Brodkin is biased and this and that.
Lisa Gonzalez: Well, that's an advantage we have. You know? We deliver news as well, but we are a research organization. We can't be called fake news. We can't be called fake research.
Christopher Mitchell: Well, this is one of the things that I think we do, and we try to do, it's a good note to end on, because I think that we try to describe the world as it is, and there are times when people are so worried about winning arguments that they forget to be able to observe things in an honest manner, and to be able to truly describe how the world works. You all know that we have conversations on a regular basis in the office to try and test out our assumptions, to be able to say, "Are we crazy? Can we measure this? How do we know that this is really happening?" We try to be accurate. At the same time, we have a bias toward we believe that local economies are better, that we want to have freedom to have self determination, and that sort of thing. We have a value system that we impose upon it, because we think it's better if Bristol owns a network, then if they sell it to another local company, and we have arguments about that. But at the end of the day we are trying to be honest about describing the world, and I think Jon Brodkin, you know, a lot of the writers, they're trying to describe the world, and on the other side, we're facing some people who think that the incumbents are good and that the wireless [providers] presents more of a competition than we expect. You know, people like Will Rinehart, I think, Ryan, who honestly believe that we're better off giving Comcast more power, because they can be innovative and things like that, but they're a minority of our opponents. Many of our opponents are just getting lots of money from the big cable and telephone companies to just say whatever they have to say in order to get those companies more power. I just find that incredibly frustrating and I'm really glad that we see less of those claims uncritically reported in the press now.
Lisa Gonzalez: We will end on that, because that's our fight song. Rah-rah. It keeps us going. Thank you so much, Nick, for coming back from DC.
Nick Stumo-Langer: Thank you for having me.
Lisa Gonzalez: Thank you, Hannah, for your wise words.
Hannah Trostle: Thank you, Lisa.
Lisa Gonzalez: And, thank you Christopher for leading us to the truth about municipal networks.
Christopher Mitchell: Oh, yeah. After all that to claim that it's the truth, capital T, truth.
Lisa Gonzalez: Oh, yeah, like an I in internet.
Christopher Mitchell: You're welcome everyone for avoiding that fight today.
Hannah Trostle: Chris's new word this year is internetification.
Lisa Gonzalez: That's right.
Christopher Mitchell: Also, I learned that the founder of Ting, well the founder of Tucows, which is a parent to Ting he used "fiberize", which we used in a title of a report this year, previously, so we were not very original with that, either.
Hannah Trostle: That report features the word internetification.
Lisa Gonzalez: Thank you everyone for listening to episode 286 of the Community Broadband Bits Podcast. Have a great holiday and thank you for sticking with us through 2017.