WASHINGTON, June 15, 2010 – Former White House official Susan Crawford spoke at the Personal Democracy Forum June 8, enumerating to her audience that we are in the midst of a titanic battle for the future of Internet in the United States.
Her warnings were that cable companies, “by whose grace each one of us has access to the internet … are gathering together once more … lots of merging going on, no legal limits on their ability to discriminate.”
The battle is between cable Internet companies who are getting bigger, and the technology industry and the customer getting squeezed with “impenetrable bundles and rising prices” because of the lack of FCC regulation. Crawford suggested that the historic breakup of the telephone companies was not constructive, but the FCC chairman’s “third way” was a good way to find the happy medium between the “heavy handed” regulation of the old telephone companies and the current lack of regulation.
Crawford’s apprehension is that the cable companies are not only merging and vertically integrating – saying that according to the government Americans would have only one choice in provider for cable by 2012 – but also that the FCC currently classifies high speed internet as an unregulated media.
According to Crawford, Comcast spent $29 million lobbying to perpetuate this lack of regulation, and they are, “suggesting merging with NBC … and is itself the largest broadband company.”
She then went on to compare the lack of oversight in telecom to that of the BP oil spill “an oil company that has not been adequately supervised,” “inadequate federal oversight may have played a significant role in this tragedy”.
Another analogy she drew was to Standard Oil, who she said could ensure cheaper shipping for themselves, and drawbacks where, if the railroad companies shipped someone else’s oil, Standard Oil would get paid.
“The future of high speed internet access depends on the government creation of a level playing field,” finished Crawford.