Susan Crawford at Wired writes—The Danger of Big City Subsidies:

IN THE AMERICAN internet access world, public assets are privatized all the time. Sometimes this happens when private companies are handed direct payments in the form of subsidies: public money, amounting to at least $5 billion a year, which is showered on companies to incentivize them to provide access in places where they feel it is too expensive to build. Sometimes this happens when companies are handed low-cost or no-cost access rights to infrastructure by state legislatures. And sometimes it happens in the form of broad public/private partnerships for “smart city” services.

But the federal government doesn’t set high enough standards for the quality and price of the services the public subsidizes—and we’re certainly no good at requiring competition. […]

For example, later this month, the Federal Communications Commission will launch a first-of-its-kind “reverse auction,” allowing companies to apply to bid for $2 billion in subsidies for providing internet access in unserved parts of America. But the companies can win these subsidies with promises of subpar service—just 10 Mbps downloads, the minimum speeds considered adequate. […]

The new rules will require that recipients sign with companies that own their own towers and lines, like T-Mobile and Verizon, instead of the smaller resellers that tailor their offerings to match the subsidy funds. These changes will, in the words of FCC commissioner Mignon Clyburn, leave the program’s 12.5 million recipients “without a carrier to turn to,” but they’ll direct more money into big telecom’s pockets.

How did we get here? America, alone among developed nations, never thought of basic telecommunications services as a public service, to be built and controlled by the government. Instead, we have traditionally relied on private companies to serve all Americans at a reasonable cost. In the past, in order to keep the price of local telephone services low and to ensure that everyone in rural areas had communications service, the federal government imposed fees on long-distance telephone service, to subsidize service for low-income and rural customers.

Now, following an astounding wave of consolidation and deregulation, we have the worst of both worlds: mostly unregulated private monopolists, selling expensive, mostly second-class data services to the rich and looking to the state to pay them to provide internet access services to everyone else.

TOP COMMENTSHIGH IMPACT STORIES

QUOTATION

“To the rocket scientist, you are a problem. You are the most irritating piece of machinery he or she will ever have to deal with. You and your fluctuating metabolism, your puny memory, your frame that comes in a million different configurations. You are unpredictable. You’re inconstant. You take weeks to fix. The engineer must worry about the water and oxygen and food you’ll need in space, about how much extra fuel it will take to launch your shrimp cocktail and irradiated beef tacos. A solar cell or a thruster nozzle is stable and undemanding. It does not excrete or panic or fall in love with the mission commander. It has no ego. Its structural elements don’t start to break down without gravity, and it works just fine without sleep. To me, you are the best thing to happen to rocket science. The human being is the machine that makes the whole endeavor so endlessly intriguing.” 
               ~Mary Roach, Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void  (2010)
 

TWEET OF THE DAY

BLAST FROM THE PAST

On this date at Daily Kos in 2003—Blair steels himself for 2-front war: 

Bush claimed he had nine, or at least eight votes in the UN Security Council. He lied. He said he would force a UN vote to force countries to “show their hand”. He lied. As the US and UK come to terms with their massive diplomatic failure, both countries turn to building legitimacy for their invasion.

In the UK, Blair is steeling himself for the resignation of Robin Cook and Clare Short — an icon of the Labour Party left. And the rebellion amongst Labour Members of Parliament is growing, with more MPs ready to vote against Blair when he introduces his war resolution.

There have been threats that people will lose their jobs,’ said Graham Allen, Nottingham MP and a leading figure among those seeking to launch a rebel amendment against the Government. ‘They are telling people that the PM needs their loyalty. People are being put in a very difficult position.’ Allen, Chris Smith, the former Culture Secretary who led the last rebellion, and Peter Kilfoyle, the former Defence Secretary, will put down an amendment to the Government’s position; 200 MPs could rebel. A number of Ministers below Cabinet rank are likely to resign.

On today’s Kagro in the Morning show: Last one out of the government, please turn off the lights. A roundup of stories for the weekend, plus the Trump revival of the GOP’s old government “burrowing” schemes, his first pardon by “tele-tele,” and the emerging Felix Sater counternarrative.

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