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Watch: What It's Like to Live in the Bermuda Triangle of Internet Access
Despite the release of the first draft of the new national broadband maps at the end of last year (and the first round of location-level and service availability corrections completed a couple of weeks ago), we're not holding our breath that 2023 will spell the end of the technology news cycle story trope of the family that buys a new house and learns that the monopoly ISPs don't actually know where they provide service in their territories across the United States.
How, more than three decades after we began rolling out national information infrastructure, does such a basic failure persist? Sometimes, it happens because network infrastructure has changed hands so many times (and with so many layoffs), that documentation has become tangled and gap-ridden. In many instances, however, it's purposeful: ISPs have for years claimed they just don't know where they offer service to, and that it would be too expensive to find out: all as part of a larger strategic plan to prevent competition. Meanwhile, the nation's premier telecommunications expert regulatory agency - the FCC - has bought this line with little pushback.
The problem is that when it happens, it's rarely the provider that gets punished. Instead, it's homeowners who assumed that moving to a suburb meant there would be Internet access nearby, only to discover that bad DSL or worse geostationary satellite service are the only options. Perhaps most frustratingly is when the provider itself - like Comcast did to a family closing on a new house in Buckley, Washington in 2021 - tells a family it services an address and completes a work order, only to cancel the install a couple of days before closing and demand $19,000 from the family for the pleasure of becoming a subscriber. Comcast seems to be a particularly bad offender, though of course Charter Spectrum, RCN, and others habiltually do it too.
This is exactly what happened to Geoff Wiggins when his family moved to Ohio. On the most recent episode of the Connect This! Show, Geoff joins to share what happened when he moved to a house and discovered that it was in the Bermuda Triangle of broadband service, and what he's done to try and fix it.