Sunday, January 18, 2015

Mr. Obama, We Don't Need FCC Regulation of the Internet

Those of us who are old enough to remember, know that it was the FCC regulation of long distance and international calling that led to the creation of a massive unionized and bloated monopoly called AT&T which stifled innovation and forced all of us to pay excessively high rates to make calls.  Billing rates during the business day in the 1970's, started at (if I remember correctly) 45 or 50 cents a minute with a 3-minute minimum charge.  Longer distance domestic calls were close to a dollar.  International calls were billed in dollars per minute.  I believe a call to Canada or Mexico cost something around $2 per minute with another 3-minute minimum. Calls to Europe started at $3/minute.  As long as AT&T had no competition and could ask for rate increases every few months and, get them approved by the FCC, there was no need to streamline their long distance and international calling business to lower the costs.

When AT&T was broken up and other long distance carriers like MCI and Sprint were allowed to freely compete without price regulation, the prices for phone calls dramatically dropped.  Today, you can make unlimited calls on many cellphones at what it would cost in 1970 to make just one 10-minute call.  That's because it would take nearly $6 in today's dollars to buy what $1 did in 1970.

Now, the President wants to regulate the Internet like a phone service.  We don't need to go backwards again in stifling competition through the regulation of an Internet that doesn't need regulation.  Every year,  providers are developing faster and faster upload/download speeds and, there is competition.  Today, in most areas of the country, you can purchase access to high-speed internet through almost every cellphone provider,  cable TV provider, and telephone company.  And, if you can't get that access through any of these outlets there is still low-speed dial-up services available.

Of course, Obama will argue that access isn't available on a universal basis, with many rural communities going without any high speed Internet. And, that's true.  It's true because it would cost 10's of thousands of dollars to provide the kind of wiring needed to serve a single farmhouse that is miles away from the local telephone company's servicing office.  But, that's what he wants and he wants us all to pay for Old McDonald getting high-speed Internet on his remote farm; which means higher costs for the rest of us.  Quite frankly, Old McDonald may not want the Internet or even own a computer or cellphone.

But, remote areas can get high-speed Internet today without Obama's help.  If they have 3G or 4G bars on a cellphone, they can also get mobile broadband access to the internet.   There are at least 4 Satellite Internet providers who will gladly sell service.  Also, there are all kinds of services in development on a private basis that could give remote rural access within months to just a few years.

First, there is Wide Area WiFi.  Currently these networks are being installed by local governments to give their police and firemen access as far as 3 miles away.  But, there is no reason that this service couldn't be implemented on a commercial basis.  Second, there is something called the AIR.U Project to provide Super WIFI Internet access.  Initially, this is a joint effort by Google and Microsoft to get Internet service to the 500 remote colleges and universities that don't have high speed connections.  Eventually, it is intended to serve all those who live in rural areas. Lastly, there is Project Loon by Google.  Loon involves launching stratospheric balloons that would carry the electronics necessary to give everyone on earth access to high speed Internet. 

The fact is that access to rural America (and the world!) is being driven by private enterprise.  We don't need the government to get involved.  Again, this is just another case where Obama wants the government to be involved in every aspect of our lives.


Obama's plan to regulate the Internet would do more harm than good:

Long Distance Rates For the Late Seventies and Early Eighties:

Inflation Calculator: What a 1970 Dollar is Worth Today:

Lessons from the AT&T break up, 30 years later:

Mobile Broadband:

2015 Best Satellite Internet Service Reviews and Comparisons:

Local Governments Deploy Wide-Area Wi-Fi Networks:

Google, Microsoft team up to bring Super Wi-Fi to rural USA:

Loon for All:

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