As mentioned previously, we were attending the Personal Democracy Forum earlier this week. Winding up Monday’s session was a panel entitled “The Obama Broadband Initiative and the Future of the Internet,” with opening remarks by Blair Levin of the FCC (video here) and a discussion, moderated by PDF’s Andrew Rasiej, involving Free Press’ Josh Silver, NCTA’s James Assey, and AT&T’s Hank Hultquist.
The WSJ’s Digits blog offered an accounting of the panel:
Panelist Josh Silver, the executive director and co-founder of Free Press, a media advocacy organization, ripped into his co-panelists, who represented the wireless and telecommunications industries.
He accused them of price-gauging Americans on Internet service and monopolizing the industry rather than engaging in competitiveness and helping provide affordable access to the poor. “We’re looking at industries which are protecting a very lucrative business model, and there are starting to be increasing numbers of people at the gates understanding that the ISP market should be competitive,” Mr. Silver said.
It was a very spirited discussion.
Let me quote a few notable remarks on Twitter:
- @mikemathieu: AT&T and cable industry reps wriggling on stage as Josh Silver points out price protection schemes of broadband providers.
@zbrisson: One of the best things of the day, Silver from free press calling the cable companies out for their oligarchic greed.
@abenamer: josh silver points out that the lack of competition with the cable and telephone duopoly keeps prices artificially high
@jonathanpberger: The hatred for ATT & Cable co.’s is palpable. The people want blood.
Among James Assey’s comments, he pointed out that companies are investing significantly in infrastructure, which will encourage faster speeds. As he put it, “We’re leaning forward to the future.” As we’ve said many times, the cable industry along has invested well over $100 billion since 1996. Assey also noted that there is competition in the broadband marketplace; however, it costs a lot to build & maintain robust broadband networks and private capital is generally required. He also pointed to a recent Pew report (Home Broadband Adoption 2009) that found that value & utility beat availability & price when it comes to why respondents did or did not take broadband.
This national discussion of America’s broadband future is important and we’re committed to taking part in the conversation. We look forward to other events like PDF as the process moves forward.