Dangling Broadband From the Phone Stick

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Dangling Broadband From the Phone Stick

I spent some time in Starbucks today and didn't have my laptop. Half of me felt about as guilty as a human being can feel because I have a T-Mobile hotspot subscription and I could actually feel the WiFi passing through me. I had lots of ideas to blog but I had no outlet.

So I did what other people seem to do when they have no broadband access, I picked up a New York Times and started reading. I came across a story that confirms something I have been writing about for a while. The title of his article is Dangling Broadband From the Phone Stick and it is really well written and has logic and facts to back it up.

Summing up the article is easy. Broadband choice is missing. There are few choices and the article could have been titled, Consumers get the Short End of Broadband Stick.

Here is the first few paragraphs:

To gauge the potential consumer impact of the consolidation sweeping the telephone industry, look no further than the silver-toned plastic phone gathering dust on the desk in Justin Martikovic's studio apartment.

Mr. Martikovic, 30, a junior architect who relies on a cellphone for his normal calling, says he never uses the desk phone - but he pays $360 a year to keep it hooked up.
"I have to pay for a service I'm never using," he said.

He has no choice. His telephone company, SBC Communications, will not sell him high-speed Internet access unless he buys the phone service, too. That puts him in the same bind as many people around the country who want high-speed, or broadband, Internet access but no longer need a conventional telephone. Right now, their phone companies tend to have a "take it or leave it" attitude.

Consumers "are not forced to go with SBC," said Michael Coe, a company spokesman. "If they just want a broadband connection, I'd recommend they look around for people who can provide just a broadband connection."

The nation's other two largest phone companies, Verizon Communications and BellSouth, have similar policies: broadband service is available only as a bundle with phone service.

There is a tremendous lack of broadband competition in the US. I tell this to reporters every time I get a chance and they seem to gloss over it. There is a major problem for consumers in the US.

Broadband access is essential. It is critical. It is the future of the world's economy yet we have almost no choices.

I compare this phase of broadband in the US to the automobile industry in the sixties and seventies. Detroit pumped out millions of cars that were good for a few years before they became junk. They didn't start too well. They had limited quality control and GM, Ford and Chrysler didn't care.

Only when the Germans and Japanese got into the game did consumers get better cars. These are some of the issues that Kevin Martin will hopefully address as new head of the FCC.

The article that sparked this entry is a good read. In fact at a certain point it allows a Verizon executive to vent about why they don't offer "naked" DSL.

"It's just very complex," said Michael D. Poling, Verizon's vice president for broadband operations and processes for Verizon. "It's changing the guts of the systems and processes we've built for five years."

Here are a few more paragraphs a bit later on:

But the smallest of the Bells, Qwest, which operates primarily in the Rocky Mountain states and is struggling to grow, has been willing to offer à la carte broadband for more than a year.

Richard C. Notebaert, the company's chief executive, said Qwest spent just three days and $134,000 to get regulatory approval to offer the service, now a year old. The company now has around 25,000 stand-alone broadband customers.

"We've had no technical problems; we've had no billing problems," he said. "If the consumer wants it, why are you stiffing them?"


Broadband is too important to allow ILECs and cable companies alone to control it. These companies have made tremendous investments... That is true. But we have to have more broadband choices. I hope compromise can be reached, allowing incumbent carriers to protect their investments while allowing increased competition to take place in a manner that is fair to the new entrants and most importantly, the consumer.



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