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Why Your Internet Sucks: Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj Boos Comcast, Cheers Muni Broadband
In the most recent episode of his weekly Netflix show Patriot Act, comedian and former Daily Show correspondent Hasan Minhaj answers the question we’ve all asked ourselves: “Why does my Internet service provider suck so much?” To figure it out, the show, which features research from the Community Broadband Networks initiative, takes a deep dive into Internet access inequality, lobbying telecom monopolies, inept federal regulators, municipal broadband networks, and more.
Minhaj, citing our Profiles of Monopoly report, points to monopoly broadband providers as one of the main reasons for slow speeds, poor service, and uneven access. He calls out Comcast in particular:
“Now look, all of these companies are terrible, but Comcast deserves a special place in Hell . . . In fact, Comcast has been called “America’s Most Hated Company” . . . The emotions are real. People hate Comcast.”
Later, he notes that the federal government shares responsibility for the sad state of affairs:
“The most frustrating part about the broadband cartel is that the government isn’t just letting this happen; it’s helping it happen. They are protecting broadband monopoly power over the public good, and most of the blame falls on one agency: the Federal Communications Commission, or the FCC.”
In the episode, Minhaj also explains how the FCC’s data collection methods vastly overstate broadband coverage, calling Form 477, which the agency uses to collect deployment data from providers, the “government version of ‘grade your own quiz.’”
As a counterpoint, Minhaj highlights how communities across the country, like Chattanooga, Tennessee, are building their own broadband networks to get around monopoly providers and sluggish regulators:
“Small cities are going DIY, and they’re setting up their own Internet. It’s become known as municipal broadband, and it is phenomenal. It turns out, when cities create their own Internet, then their own broadband customers get faster speeds, lower prices, and better customer service — you know, all the things that violate Comcast company policy.”
Municipal broadband, he says, is creating competition and faster, more affordable Internet access:
Companies, Associations Call On MO Committee To Kill SB 186
As SB 186 sits patiently in committee, advocates of better broadband from the private and public sectors are banding together to share their thoughts on the bill. They believe that the bill will stifle attempts to improve connectivity throughout the state. In a recent letter to the Chair and members of the the Missouri Senate Local Government and Elections Committee, they laid out the other reasons why SB 186 should not advance.
The Coalition for Local Internet Choice (CLIC) organized the letter and signed on with 14 other companies and associations. It wouldn’t be the first time - Missouri is an all too common battle ground in the fight to protect remaining potential for municipal networks and public private partnerships.
They describe the bill as:
“…[H]arming both the public and private sectors, stifling economic growth, preventing the creation or retention of jobs around the State, particularly in rural areas, hampering work-force development, and diminishing the quality of life in Missouri.”
This is the third time in as many years that Missouri State Legislators have tried to push through legislation that would benefit large cable and DSL incumbents. The goal of the bill this year as before is to lock out any possibility of competition now or in the future. Last year, HB 2078 saw some drama when its author tried to slip in the foul language within the text of a public safety bill that had nothing to do with telecommunications. Luckily, sharp advocates were paying attention and had already educated Members who were on the conference committee. Those in favor of local authority stripped out the language and when anti-muni Members tried to amend it into a third bill, the author moved to have it removed under threat of filibuster.
Don't Make A Rough Situation Worse
Missouri already imposes restrictions on municipal networks. In the letter, the signatories refer to local authority as a key in solving Missouri's poor connectivity problems:
Ars Technica on Tech Giants Coming Out Against Virginia Barrier Bill
Ars Technica - January 25,2017
Google and Netflix join fight against municipal broadband restrictions
Written by Jon Brodkin
Google and Netflix joined a handful of advocacy groups and other companies lobbying against a proposed Virginia state law that would make it far more difficult for municipalities to offer Internet service.
As we previously reported, the "Virginia Broadband Deployment Act" would prohibit municipal broadband deployments except in very limited circumstances. For example, localities wouldn't be allowed to offer Internet service to residents if an existing network already provides 10Mbps download and 1Mbps upload speeds to 90 percent of potential customers. Even if that condition is met, municipalities would have to jump through several legal hoops before being allowed to build a network.
"A number of local governments have already passed resolutions condemning the legislative attack on their right to make local telecommunications decisions and we expect to see more," the Institute for Local Self-Reliance's Community Networks project wrote Monday. The 10Mbps/1Mbps speeds specified in the legislation are "reminiscent of antiquated DSL," the group said.
Experts Oppose Byron's HB 2108 In VA
Private sector companies, trade organizations, and local authority advocacy groups went on record last week in opposition to HB 2108, a Virginia bill that would severely restrict local communities’ options to improve connectivity. They joined together in a letter to the Chairman of the Virginia House Commerce and Labor Committee, there the bill is now waiting for hearing, Republican Terry J. Kilgore.
Joining Local Communities To Oppose
A number of local governments have already passed resolutions condemning the legislative attack on their right to make local telecommunications decisions and we expect to see more. Del. Kathy Byron, a legislative darling of big cable and DSL providers in Virginia, introduce the bill earlier this month. Local and national media outlets immediately caught the story, and constituents have contacted Byron's office to express their concern.
This letter from leaders in the industry underscored their concern that potential partners feel the bill is a death knell for public-private partnerships:
It would interfere with the ability of private companies to make timely sales of equipment and services to public broadband providers. It would deny private companies timely access to advanced networks over which they could offer business and residential customers an endless array of modern products and services. It would also impair economic and educational opportunities that contribute to a skilled workforce from which businesses across the state will benefit.
The authors of the letter find the slow speeds required in the bill especially troubling for rural communities. The bill sets the standards at 10 Megabits per second (Mbps) download and 1 Mbps upload - speeds reminiscent of antiquated DSL:
Reclaim Time, Money By Bidding Cable Bye Bye
“There aren’t enough hours in the day,” is a statement that describes the increasing stress of people who feel over-scheduled, over-worked, and over-tired. With too much to do and too little time in which to do it, snatching back every wasted moment can keep an individual on track and pleasantly productive.
Added Benefits Of The Break
In addition to slashing your cable bill, cord cutting can help you retrieve those lost moments - and preserve your sanity - by allowing you to control your advertisement consumption.
A March Ting blog post shared data from the Wall Street Journal that described how commercial time on cable TV has steadily increased over the past few years and is now up to an average of 15.8 minutes of every hour. Some cable channels gobble up as much as 25 percent of your viewing time with advertisements. Considered cumulatively:
Further, if you watch every episode of NCIS Season 13 live, you will watch 17 hours of content. If you stream the same show through Amazon, without ads, it would be just 11.9 hours of content, for a total savings of over five hours.
Taken one step further, viewers can reduce electricity consumption by eliminating or reducing commercials. While some streaming services like Netflix show no ads, even the ones that do, such as Hulu, show much fewer ads than cable TV; often subscribers can pay a slightly higher rate for ad-free viewing.
If You Like Commercials
Some people enjoy ads, however, so if you decide to cut the cord but still want the ability to view some of those quirky commercials, there is a way to see high-quality ads at your leisure. Ting recommends Superbowl-Ads.com, Fandango on Youtube and Daily Commercials.
The Ting Blog is one of those golden nuggets that is worth an occasional look. In addition to tips like these, the provider offers product reviews, information on new apps, and answers to questions you probably won't find elsewhere. Check it out.
Missouri Senate Committee Hears Anti-Muni Bill; Private Companies and Groups Ask For No Vote
As the Senate version of Missouri's latest anti-muni bill, SB 266 [PDF], moved forward recently, a group of private sector companies and interested organizations appealed to state lawmakers [PDF] urging them to stop it in its tracks.
In January we reported on HB 437, introduced by House Member Rocky Miller. Its Senate companion, which establishes an identical slash and burn strategy to discourage municipal broadband investment, appears to be gathering interest.
The Senate Jobs, Economic Development and Local Government Committee heard the bill on February 18th but chose not to vote on it, reports the Columbia Tribune. Members of the committee received a copy of the correspondence.
Readers will recall that Columbia is one of the many communities that have been actively investigating the possibility of municipal open access network investment. Last fall, Columbia received the results of a feasibility study that recommended the town make better use of its existing fiber assets for economic development purposes.
The letter, sent to Senator Eric Schmitt, Chairman of the Missouri Senate Committee on Jobs, Economic Development, and Local Government, stressed the importance of public private partnerships in the modern economy. SB 266 and HB 437, with their onerous barriers, would certainly discourage private investment in Missouri. From the letter:
Remembering David Carr, and His Writing on Monopoly Power
Stacy Mitchell, Co-Director of ILSR and Director of the Community-Scaled Economy Initiative, took a few moments to look back over the work of David Carr. Carr's work included investigating monopolies in the telecommunications space. Stacy's story, re-posted here, originally ran on ILSR.org.
What will we do without David Carr, the brilliant media columnist at the New York Times who died last week? At ILSR, we will especially miss his writing on monopoly power, Amazon, and the book business. Below we’ve excerpted and linked to a few of his best recent pieces on those subjects.
In Modern Media Realm, Big Mergers Are a Bulwark Against Rivals — July 16, 2014
Comcast’s bold strategy of acquisition kicked off a wave of defensive consolidation, fueled by a combination of fear and abundant capital in the media realm.
I talked to the head of one company that creates television and movies, who expressed a common sentiment. “When Comcast decided to get bigger,” he said, “we all had to ask ourselves, Are we big enough? We all have to think about getting bigger.”
And why not? No one is stopping them.
With big data, a Big Brother government and now big media, size creates its own prerogatives. When Amazon used its market dominance to limit access to Hachette books over a price dispute, regulators yawned. When AT&T and DirecTV propose a tie-up in response to Comcast, the market issues are just another deal point. Cable companies slowed down content from clients (which are also competitors) like Netflix, and it was treated as a business dispute.
For the most part, the current government has passed on regulating potential monopolies, and as citizens, we have become inured to the consequences of bigness.
Christopher Libertelli From Netflix Joins CLIC Board
The Coalition for Local Internet Choice (CLIC) has announced that Christopher Libertelli of Netflix has joined the Board of Advisors. Libertelli joins a group of policy leaders, including ILSR's Chris Mitchell, to advance the rights of local communities to have authority over their own broadband decisions.
From the CLIC announcement:
Mr. Libertelli has been Vice President of Global Public Policy at Netflix since December 2011. During his time at Netflix, he has been a champion for a variety of internet policy issues including efforts to increase competition among internet providers. Prior to joining Netflix, Mr. Libertelli managed Skype’s government relations programs in the U.S., Canada, and Latin America.
Netflix has been a strong and consistent supporter of local internet choice.
Netflix has been very helpful in advocating for the right of communities to build their own networks if they so choose. They filed comments [pdf] in the Wilson and Chattanooga petitions and have been listing some of the larger municipal networks in their monthly speed rankings. We are very grateful for their assistance in these important matters.