Back in 1992, US president George HW Bush stumbled over a grocery store price scanner on his way to re-election. Touring a grocers’ convention, Bush gazed in “wonder,” according to the New York Times, at technology well-known to everyone else. Bush went down in history as “out of touch” with the real America — and as a one-term president.
How much more out of touch than that do you have to be to assert that “just 37 percent of Americans have more than one option for high-speed broadband providers?”
That’s what US Senators Bernie Sanders (D-VT), Al Franken (D-MN), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Edward Markey (D-MA) claim in a letter to Tom Wheeler, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission. The Senators want Wheeler to investigate what they consider unduly high prices in the cable industry for both television and Internet services.
Their sketchy statistical claim results from concentrating solely on local cable monopolies (which are indeed a bad thing) to the exclusion of satellite TV and Internet companies, DSL and television services offered by phone companies, and cellular Internet.
If the Senators answered their own doors and phones and emptied their own mailboxes now and then, they might understand the situation better.
I live in a suburban area, verging into rural. Fortunately, cable reaches my home, and based on my own needs (my family uses LOTS of bandwidth), I chose the local cable monopoly (Cox) for television, Internet and phone services. But my recycling bin overflows with junk mail begging me to switch to AT&T U-Verse, Dish Network, DirecTV, a local satellite TV/Internet outfit, or one of several cellular providers. Not to mention the telemarketing calls and door knocks.
I have choices coming out my ears (in addition to all those listed, I can carry my laptop to nearly any business district and suck down all the free Wi-Fi I want). Based on a quick review of coverage maps, I’m confident that nearly 100% of my fellow Americans do as well. Some providers offer more or less. Some charge more or less. Which is cool, since people’s needs vary.
Why the sudden crocodile tears over cable Internet pricing? And why from these four, of all people?
A few weeks ago, Sanders blamed child hunger in America on the availability of too many brands of deodorant. Now he’s concerned over too few brands of TV and Internet access.
All four Senators volubly supported increasing Internet access prices for “the little people” when they backed the FCC’s recent Title II “net neutrality” power grab. Bandwidth infrastructure costs. Since providers can’t charge bandwidth hogs like YouTube and Netflix a la carte to cover those costs, every end user (including your grandmother, who checks her email once a day and looks at a few funny pictures of cats) is going to end up paying more.
The Gang of Four didn’t care about the little people’s Internet bills then. Why should we believe they do now? To put it bluntly, I don’t. Neither should you.
Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.