Let’s state the obvious: Internet in the U.S. sucks. Unless you already have fiber, you’re probably stuck with cable, DSL, or no internet at all because no ISP wants to expand into your area. If you live in a rural area and are lucky to get some form of broadband, you’re probably paying an exorbitant amount for slower than molasses speeds. And most people, about 83.3 million according to a recent report from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR), can only access broadband through a single provider. There’s no incentive for major ISPs to actually offer their customers good service. Instead, their focus is on short-term profits—even if that means leaving money on the table and customers on DSL.
Our own Alex Cranz and Brian Kahn recently spoke with Electronic Frontier Foundation special adviser Cory Doctorow about how ISPs continue to wreck their own internet service, overcharge customers, shut out competition, and leave a significant chunk of urban and rural America pleading for more affordable and better broadband. (You can listen to this first episode of the System Reboot podcast here.) The podcast is a nice overview of the problems with ISPs, but I wanted to dig a bit further into one key element of Doctorow’s focus in the episode: The case of Frontier’s bankruptcy. It’s especially illuminating when it comes to tracing the steps of how ISPs got this monopolistic power over consumers and continue to wield it to absolute ill effects.
The Internet Is Broken, and ISPs Are to Blame