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Commerce Secretary Appoints Comcast VP to Advisory Board to Protect Free & Open Internet

Phillip Dampier: Putting Comcast's David Cohen on a panel to protect the free and open Internet is like appointing Bernie Madoff to run the SEC.

Phillip Dampier: Putting Comcast’s David Cohen on a panel to protect the free and open Internet is like appointing Bernie Madoff to run the SEC.

I got whiplash this afternoon doing a double-take on the improbable announcement that Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker has seen fit to appoint David Cohen, senior vice president and chief lobbyist at Comcast, to the first-ever Digital Economy Board of Advisors, which counts among its goals protecting a free and open Internet. He will be joined by AT&T’s chief lobbyist, the omnipresent Mr. James Cicconi.

Neither has much patience for Net Neutrality. Cicconi and Cohen have both lobbied Congress and regulators to keep Comcast and AT&T free from regulation and oversight, even as Comcast imposes usage-billing and data caps on a growing number of its customers, while exempting its own streaming video content from those caps. For its part, AT&T is exploring “zero rating” preferred content partners to escape the wrath of its own wireless data limits and advocates against community broadband competition.

The board will be co-chaired by Markle Foundation president Zoe Baird and Mitchell Baker, executive chairwoman of Mozilla.

“As we develop an agenda to help the digital economy grow and thrive, it is critical that we engage with those on the front lines of the digital revolution,” said Pritzker.

It apparently doesn’t matter that the front lines being explored are those of the allies and enemies of Net Neutrality. Putting David Cohen on the case to protect a free and open Internet is like appointing Bernie Madoff to head the Securities & Exchange Commission.

Consumers are, as usual, woefully under-represented on the panel. Only Marta Tellado, president and CEO of Consumer Reports, is likely to solely advocate for ordinary Internet users. The rest of the panel is made up of bankers, businesspeople (including the CEO of a home shopping channel), academia, think tanks and dot.com interests:

David "I'm crushing your unlimited Internet access" Cohen

David “I’m crushing your unlimited Internet access” Cohen

  • Karen Bartleson, president-elect of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers
  • Greg Becker, president and CEO of Silicon Valley Bank and SVB Financial Group
  • Austan Goolsbee, Robert P. Gwinn Professor of Economics at the University of Chicago, Booth School of Business
  • Mindy Grossman, CEO and director of HSN
  • Oisin Hanrahan, co-founder and CEO of Handy
  • Sonia Katyal, Chancellor’s Professor of Law at the University of California at Berkeley School of Law
  • James Manyika, director of the McKinsey Global Institute
  • William Ruh, CEO of GE Digital and Chief Digital Officer for GE
  • Brad Smith, president and chief legal officer at Microsoft
  • Corey Thomas, president and CEO of Rapid7
  • Susan Wojcicki, CEO of YouTube
  • John Zimmer, co-founder and president of Lyft

Sen. Elizabeth Warren Calls Out Bought-and-Paid-For Research; One Paid Author Resigns

Phillip Dampier October 6, 2015 Editorial & Site News, Public Policy & Gov't Comments Off on Sen. Elizabeth Warren Calls Out Bought-and-Paid-For Research; One Paid Author Resigns

Sen. Warren

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) has sent a shockwave across the D.C. Beltway and academia after complaining a Brookings Institution scholar co-authored a research report that was paid for by a corporation that used it to lobby Congress to reject consumer protections for retirees.

Warren’s encounter with paid research is nothing new for Stop the Cap! readers. We have been documenting Big Telecom’s “Phoney” research advocating against consumer protections for broadband and for usage caps and usage-based billing since 2009.

In our view, it is nothing short of unethical for a researcher to accept funding for a corporate-backed research study, bury that fact in a footnote, and leave out the dollar amounts involved. But with tens of thousands of dollars ready for the taking per “study,” a cottage industry of academia and “independent” researchers has sprung up to supply customized findings that “coincidentally” mirror that company’s public policy agenda.

Warren followed the money after reviewing a report written by Robert Litan and co-authored by Hal Singer, who often writes about broadband issues for the Progressive Policy Institute, which itself receives significant funding from Big Telecom companies.

Hire your own economist to write you a research report. Economists, Inc.'s "selected client list" is a Who's Who of America's top corporations.

Hire your own economist to write you a research report. Economists, Inc.’s “selected client list” is a Who’s Who of America’s top corporations.

Litan’s report advocated against a proposed rule written by the Labor Department that would prohibit retirement plan brokers from receiving financial commissions, bonuses and other quiet incentives from giant investment banks that could potentially influence the advice brokers give consumers. During the housing bust of the Great Recession, similar financial conflicts of interest occurred when realtors and loan officers were accused of steering consumers into loan/mortgage products that paid substantial commissions to both, despite the fact those products may not have been in the best interests of homebuyers.

Litan concluded the new rule would “be too costly” to manage, a claim dismissed as ridiculous by Barbara Roper, director of investor protection for the Consumer Federation of America.

What could have made an economist with ties to the prestigious Brookings Institution reach a conclusion that would, in the words of Roper, leave “millions of working families and retirees without meaningful protections when they turn to financial professionals for retirement investment advice?”

It might be the $85,000 paid by the study’s sponsor — the Capital Group, a leading mutual fund manager with an obvious interest in the outcome.

Brookings promotes "quality, independence, and impact."

Brookings promotes “quality, independence, and impact.”

Warren’s staff noticed a tiny footnote on the first page of Litan and Singer’s report acknowledging the study was sponsored by the firm, but did not disclose the amount paid or the conditions under which the study was written.

Warren complained the report was little more than a “highly compensated and editorially compromised work on behalf of an industry player seeking a specific conclusion.” Warren also notified both the Brookings Institution and the Obama Administration that using these types of reports to “independently” bolster a corporation’s lobbying was little more than influence peddling, and implied it threatened Brooking’s reputation.

The practice of writing corporate-sponsored research is well-established, usually dependent on the names and reputations of well-respected think tanks and policy institutes to provide cover for the more blatant practice of direct corporate lobbying. Most corporations avoid drawing attention to their direct financial relationship with study authors. Litan’s money connection was revealed in follow-up written questions from Warren. The answers conflicted with the study authors’ original claims they were “solely responsible” for the study’s conclusions, finally revealing Capital Group had paid $85,000 for the study, and Litan’s share was $38,800.

Recognize that logo? Your retirement fund may already be handled by a Capital Group subsidiary like American Funds.

Recognize that logo? Your retirement fund may already be handled by a Capital Group subsidiary like American Funds.

Tom Joyce, a spokesman for the Capital Group, said his company was following standard practice. “It is typical for organizations to sponsor academic studies,” Joyce said, noting that in this case, “no preconditions or predetermined conclusions were imposed.”

Few D.C. insiders believe Joyce, noting they have never seen a corporate-sponsored report that concluded anything markedly different from the corporate sponsors’ own positions.

In the end, Litan resigned his “non-resident scholar” position at the Brookings Institution, not because of his association with corporate-sponsored research, but rather his violation of a new think-tank rule prohibiting researchers from citing their affiliation with Brookings when testifying before Congress.

After that, the D.C. establishment and a threatened coterie of fellow pay-for-research writers went on the warpath, realizing a lucrative revenue stream was at risk if the public knew the independence of corporate-funded research is often suspect.

“This is McCarthyism of the left,” Hal Singer, a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute and co-author of the research Warren criticized told Politico. “What Warren is doing is suppressing scholars [who] speak independently through her threats.”

An editorial in the Wall Street Journal accused Warren of launching an inquisition against ideas and used the names of several former officials in the Clinton Administration to defend the bipartisan practice of corporate writing on spec.

The National Review (seeing a trend yet?) also blistered Warren for having a double standard in a piece Bloomberg News dismissed as “interesting though a bit breathless.” The fact pro-regulation lobbying group Better Markets often agrees with Sen. Warren’s political views was enough for the conservative magazine to indict her for essentially doing the same thing Litan did. Only Bloomberg concluded Warren was more of a bystander than a participant.

[The National Review piece] accuses Better Markets of “failing to adequately disclose its relationship” with its hedge-fund-manager founder Michael Masters, even though that relationship seems to be fully disclosed, and it insinuates that Masters was shorting Prudential and MetLife while Better Markets was arguing to have them regulated as “systemically important,” even though the only evidence for that is that Masters [had] long call options on Pru and Met.

Warren has made a point of publicly exposing the cozy relationships corporations have with lobbyists, paid consultants, and academia in her one-woman war to protect consumer interests and punish big banks and corporations for anti-consumer behavior. Her practice of tearing the lid off D.C.’s revolving door of lobbying and public service has made Democrats and Republicans nervous, and more than few are looking for revenge.

As far as we’re concerned, Warren’s isn’t the issue. The problem rests with those that willingly choose to risk their credibility for cash, writing reports with glaring conflicts of interest.

Special Report: The Return of Wireless Cable, Bringing Along 50Mbps Broadband

A Short History of Wireless Cable

Spectrum offered Chicago competition to larger ON-TV, selling commercial-free movies and sports on scrambled UHF channel 66 (today WGBO-TV).

Long before many Americans had access to cable television, watching premium commercial-free entertainment in the 1970s was only possible in a handful of large cities, where television stations gave up a significant chunk of their broadcast day to services like ON-TV, Spectrum, SelecTV, Prism, Starcase, Preview, VEU, and SuperTV. For around $20 a month, subscribers received a decoder box to watch the encrypted UHF broadcast programming, which consisted of sports, popular movies and adult entertainment. The channels were relatively expensive to receive, suffered from the same reception problems other UHF stations often had in large metropolitan areas, and were frequently pirated by non-paying customers with modified decoder boxes.

With the spread of cable television into large cities, the single channel over-the-air services were doomed, and between 1983-1985,virtually all of their operations closed down, converting to all-free-viewing, usually as an independent or ethnic language television outlet.

But the desire for competition for cable television persisted, and in the mid-1980s the Federal Communications Commission allocated two blocks of frequencies for entertainment video delivery. The FCC earlier allocated part of this channel space to Instructional Television Fixed Services (ITFS) for programming from schools, hospitals, and religious groups, which could use the capacity to transmit programming to different buildings and potentially to viewers at home with the necessary equipment.

Home Box Office got its start broadcasting on microwave frequencies before moving to satellite.

In practice, ITFS channels allocated during the 1970s were underutilized, because running such an operation was often beyond the budgets and technical expertise of many educational institutions. Premium movie entertainment once again drove the technology forward. After signing off at the end of the school day, Home Box Office, Showtime, and The Movie Channel signed on, using microwave technology to distribute their services to area cable systems and some subscribers. As those premium services migrated to satellite distribution beginning in 1975, reallocation for a new kind of “wireless cable TV” became a reality.

Wireless cable (technically known as “multichannel multipoint distribution service”) began in earnest in the late 1980s and early 1990s, with a package of around 32 channels — typically over the air stations, popular cable networks, and one or two premium movie channels. Some operations in smaller cities sought to beam just a channel or two of premium movies or adult entertainment to paying subscribers, the latter at a substantial price premium. Installation costs paid by providers were more affordable than traditional cable television — around $350 for wireless vs. $1,000 for cable television. That made wireless attractive in rural areas where installation costs for cable television could run even higher.

However, it was not too long before wireless cable operators ran into problems with their business models. Obtaining affordable programming was always difficult. Some cable networks, then-owned by large cable systems, either refused to do business with their wireless competitors or charged discriminatory rates to carry their networks. By the time legislative relief arrived, the wireless industry realized they now had a capacity problem. As cable television systems were being upgraded in the 1990s, the number of channels cable customers received quickly grew to 60 or more (with many more to come with the advent of “digital cable”). Wireless cable was stuck with just 32 channels and a then-analog platform. Satellite television was also becoming a larger competitive threat in rural areas, with DirecTV and Dish delivering hundreds of channels.

American Telecasting gave up its wireless cable ventures, under such names as People’s Wireless TV and SuperView in 1997, selling out to companies including Sprint and BellSouth (today AT&T). BellSouth pulled the plug on the services in February, 2001.

Wireless providers simply could not compete with their smaller packages, and most closed down or sold their operations, often to phone companies. The few remaining systems, mostly in rural areas, have typically combined their wireless frequencies with satellite provider partners to deliver television, slow broadband, and IP-based telephone service.

Rebooting Wireless Cable for the 21st Century

By the early-2000’s the Federal Communications Commission proposed a new allocation for a “Multichannel Video and Data Distribution Service” (MVDDS). Designed to share the 12.2-12.7GHz band with Direct Broadcast Satellite (DBS) services DirecTV and Dish, MVDDS was partly envisioned as a potential way to deliver local stations to satellite subscribers over ground-based transmitters. But things have evolved well beyond that concept, especially after both satellite providers began using “spot beams” to deliver local stations to different regions from their existing fleet of orbiting satellites.

MVDDS was ultimately opened up to be either a competing cable television-like service or for wireless broadband, or both. Michael Powell, then-chairman of the FCC during the first term of George W. Bush, said the technology was free to develop as providers saw fit:

What is MVDDS? The short answer is that we do not know.  Its name, Multichannel Video Distribution and Data Service, seems to suggest everything is possible – and perhaps it is.

But the service rules the Commission has adopted do not require MVDDS to provide any particular kind of service – it could be a multichannel video, or data, or digital radio service, or any other permutation on spectrum use.

The Commission was once in the business of requiring spectrum holders to provide a certain type of service.  That approach failed because government is a very bad predictor of technology and markets – both of which move a lot faster than government.  Over the past decade or so, the Commission has adopted more flexible service rules that bound a service based largely on interference limitations and its allocation (fixed or mobile, terrestrial or satellite).  In this Order, we follow that flexible model for MVDDS.

In 2004 and 2005, licenses to operate MVDDS services were opened up for auction, and a handful of companies won the bulk of them: MDS America, which built a 700-channel wireless cable system in the United Arab Emirates, DTV Norwich, an affiliate of cable operator Cablevision, and South.com, which is really satellite provider Dish Network. Another significant winner was Mr. Bruce E. Fox, who wants to partner with other providers to finance and operate MVDDS services.

Cablevision and Fox are the two most active license recipients at the moment.

A Look at Today’s MVDDS Wireless Players

Fox launched Go Long Wireless in Baltimore as a demonstration project. Go Long transmits its signal from the roof of the World Trade Center at the Baltimore Inner Harbor to the Emerging Technology Center, a business incubator site a few miles away. Fox believes the technology is especially suited to multi-dwelling units like apartment complexes and condos. He plans to work with other service providers who will market and bill the service under their own brand names. Fox does not seem to be interested in challenging the marketplace status quo. He does not believe in using MVDDS to provide television service, for example. In Fox’s view, the real money is in broadband and Voice over IP telephone service.

Cablevision’s involvement is more direct-to-consumer. Its Clearband service– now operating under the new brand ‘OMGFAST’ — is now selling up to 50/3Mbps wireless broadband service in the Deerfield Beach, Fla. area. The company has had nothing to say about whether this service is slated to expand, and if it does, Cablevision will not be permitted to operate it in areas where they already provide cable service, due to the FCC’s cross-ownership rules.

OMGFAST originally bundled voice service in its broadband packages, which it sold at different price points: 12Mbps for $39.95 a month, 25Mbps for $59.95 a month, and 50Mbps at $79.95. The company also tested a 50Mbps promotion priced at $29.95 a month for three months, $59.95 ongoing. Today it offers a better deal: $29.95 a month for 50Mbps service as an ongoing rate. (Expect to pay $10 a month more for mandatory equipment rental, and $14.95 a month if you also want voice service.)

Here is a promotional video explaining how Clearband (now OMGFAST) wireless broadband works. (3 minutes)

MVDDS currently delivers broadband with similar constraints cable systems operate under — namely, download speeds are much faster than upload speeds. That is because upstream bandwidth relies on another transmission technology, often WiMAX, in the 3.65 GHz or 5 GHz bands.

The wireless technology is also very “line of sight,” meaning the tower must be within six miles of the subscriber and not blocked by any obstructions. Hills, buildings, even heavy foliage can all block MVDDS signals the same way satellite signals can be blocked (they share the same frequencies).

Most customers end up with an antenna that very much resembles a traditional satellite dish from DirecTV or Dish, mounted on a roof. To maximize available bandwidth, MVDDS uses a configuration similar to cellular systems, with up to 900Mbps of total bandwidth available to each 90-degree narrow beam sector.

Cablevision has MVDDS licenses to serve most large cities in the United States.

The question is, how will license holders ultimately use the technology. Although originally proposed as a competitor to traditional cable or satellite TV, deregulation has left the fate of MVDDS in the hands of the operators.

Some are considering not selling the service to consumers at all, but rather making a market out of providing backhaul connectivity for cell towers. Dish may be interested in using its licenses to offer customers a triple play package of broadband and phone service with its satellite TV package. Nobody seems particularly interested in providing television service over MVDDS, primarily because programmers’ demands for higher carriage payments would cut into revenue.

Even Cablevision isn’t completely sure what it wants to do. Although it currently is trialing broadband and phone service in Florida, the company earlier petitioned the FCC for increased power to establish a more suitable wireless backhaul service it can sell to mobile phone companies.

For the moment, reviews seem relatively positive for the Florida market test. Of course, as more customers pile on a wireless service, the less speed becomes available to each customer. OMGFAST does not appear to be currently concerned, noting it has no usage caps on its service.

Want to know which provider may be coming to your area? See below the jump for a list of the top-three bid winners and the cities they are now licensed to serve, in order of market size.

… Continue Reading

6 University Towns Will Get Gigabit Broadband Through New Public-Private Partnership

Phillip Dampier May 24, 2012 Broadband Speed, Community Networks, Competition, Consumer News, Public Policy & Gov't, Video Comments Off on 6 University Towns Will Get Gigabit Broadband Through New Public-Private Partnership

Six college towns will benefit from the nation’s first multi-community broadband gigabit deployment, thanks to $200 million in capital funding to get the broadband networks off the ground.

The Gigabit Neighborhood Gateway Program leverages local government, universities, private capital, and the public to jointly support and foster the development of new fiber optic networks.

The new program claims it will offer competitively-priced super-fast broadband through projects that will cover neighborhoods of 5,000-10,000 people and communities up to 100,000 in size.  Selection of the six winning communities will be announced between this fall and next spring.

“Gigabit Squared created the Gigabit Neighborhood Gateway Program to help select Gig.U communities build and test gigabit speed broadband networks with speeds from 100 to 1000 times faster than what Americans have today,” the company said in a statement.

“The United States is behind in the world for Internet speed,” said Mark Ansboury, Gigabit’s president and co-founder. “The goal is to help get us out front for a platform of innovation.”

That platform is certainly not forthcoming from the country’s largest broadband providers, who according to Ansboury have been pulling back on wired infrastructure upgrades in recent years, shifting focus to more profitable wireless networks.

Gigabit Squared defines the next generation of broadband Internet in terms of speed, declaring 2,000Mbps (2Gbps) as the target to achieve.

The winning projects will be sponsored by Gig.U members, which include:

  • Arizona State University
  • California Institute of Technology
  • Case Western Reserve University
  • Colorado State University
  • Duke University
  • Florida State University
  • George Mason University
  • The Georgia Institute of Technology
  • Howard University
  • Indiana University
  • Michigan State University
  • North Carolina State University
  • Penn State University
  • University of Alaska – Fairbanks
  • University of Arizona
  • University of Chicago
  • University of Colorado – Boulder
  • University of Florida
  • University of Hawaii
  • University of Illinois
  • University of Kentucky
  • University of Louisville
  • University of Maine
  • University of Maryland
  • University of Michigan
  • University of Missouri
  • University of Montana
  • University of Nebraska – Lincoln
  • University of New Mexico
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • University of Oklahoma
  • University of South Florida
  • University of Virginia
  • University of Washington
  • Virginia Tech
  • Wake Forest University
  • West Virginia University

Blair Levin, executive director at Gig.U, believes private American telecom companies will always be constrained from delivering world class broadband comparable to South Korea or Japan because of Wall Street opposition to the investment required to construct them. In the eyes of investors, today’s slower networks, in their estimation, do just fine.

Gig.U believes that they have a solution, at least for towns with a sizable university system that can serve as host of the next generation broadband network:

First, any community that wants its residents to have access to a network that delivers world-leading bandwidth can do so. The barrier is not technology or economics. The barrier is organization; specifically, organizing demand and improved use of underutilized assets, such as rights of way, dark fiber, or in more rural areas, spectrum. The responses identified a multitude of ways local communities can improve the private investment case by lowering investment and risk, and increasing revenues for private players willing to upgrade or build new networks without budget outlays from the local government.

Second, the responses confirmed that university communities have the easiest organizing task and greatest upside. Their density, demographics and demand make the current economics more favorable for an upgrade than other communities. For example, the high percentage of the population in university communities living in multiple dwelling units makes the economics of an upgrade far more favorable than for communities composed largely of single-family homes. With the growing importance of Big Data for the economy and the society, university communities are the natural havens for such enterprises to be born and prosper. Through the Gig.U process, our communities are already exploring more than a half-dozen paths to achieve an upgrade; paths that will be replicable for others and will deliver a major step forward in providing America a strategic broadband advantage.

Outside of a handful of upstart private competitors like California-based Sonic.net, most fiber broadband expansion come from private companies like Google — building an experimental fiber-to-the-home network in Kansas City, community-owned broadband services coordinated by local town or city government, co-op telecommunications companies owned by their subscribers, or municipal utilities.

While those efforts are typically committed to the concept of “universal service” — wiring their entire communities — the Gig.U project targets funding only for networks in and around university campuses.

The New America Foundation builds on Gig.U’s premise in its own recent report, “Universities as Hubs for Next Generation Networks,” which argues affordable expansion of broadband can win community support when the public has the right to also benefit from those networks. While Gig.U’s approach suggests the project will target fiber broadband directly to the homes qualified to receive it, the New America Foundation supports the construction of mesh wireless Wi-Fi networks to keep construction costs low for neighborhoods targeted for service.

An earlier project in Orono and Old Town, Maine may afford a preview of Gig.U’s vision, as that collaboration between the University of Maine and private fiber provider GWI is already in its construction phase. For those lucky enough to live within range of the fiber project, broadband speeds will far exceed what incumbents Time Warner Cable and FairPoint Communications deliver. FairPoint has fought similar projects (and GWI specifically) for years.

Will private providers object to the Gig.U effort to win local governments’ favor in the six cities eventually chosen for service? History suggests the answer will be yes, at least to the extent local cable and phone companies demand the same concessions for easy pole access, reduced pole attachment fees, and easing of zoning restrictions and procedures Gig.U project coordinators expect.

Levin has stressed Gig.U projects are based on university and private funding sources, not taxpayer dollars. That may also limit how much objection commercial providers may be able to raise against the projects.

WABI in Bangor previews the new gigabit broadband network being constructed in Orono and Old Town, Maine.  (2 minutes)

Broadband Stimulus Blockade – FairPoint Bankruptcy Doesn’t Stop Spending to Block Stimulus in Maine

Phillip Dampier February 16, 2010 Broadband Speed, Competition, Editorial & Site News, FairPoint, Public Policy & Gov't, Rural Broadband, Video Comments Off on Broadband Stimulus Blockade – FairPoint Bankruptcy Doesn’t Stop Spending to Block Stimulus in Maine

In Maine, bankrupt FairPoint Communications managed to scrape up enough cash to launch a lobbying effort to get a bill introduced, tailor-written to prohibit stimulus award winners from… helping provide improved broadband service to Maine residents.


Incredibly, Sen. Lisa Marrache, D-Waterville, the assistant Senate majority leader, has introduced a bill that would ban the system from using any tuition money to help pay for efforts to expand broadband access. Marrache mouthed FairPoint’s talking points as she suggested poor college students’ tuition money would be diverted for broadband projects. She claimed the bill was introduced because constituents FairPoint’s lobbyists and employees were calling her about it.

The fact Marrache so misunderstood a public-private partnership between the University of Maine, Great Works Internet, and two private investors to improve the Internet “backbone” in Maine should be of grave concern to her constituents. Unless some campaign contributions from FairPoint and its executives make their way to Marrache’s next campaign, voters must be wondering whether the majority leader has a grip on the technology matters before her.

Indeed, the University of Maine explained the “middle mile” improvement program was not going to steal students’ lunch money, but rather dramatically improve broadband capacity for all comers — something FairPoint couldn’t be bothered with while breaking promises to expand broadband service themselves.

Jeff Letourneau, associate director of information technology at UMS, told the Bangor Daily News, “as for tuition subsidizing our broadband efforts, that does not happen and will not happen.”

WABI-TV in Bangor reported on the announced funding of broadband projects in Maine designed to improve rural broadband service statewide (12-17-2009 — 2 minutes)

Ironically, the network that will be built with the help of the broadband stimulus program will be open to any and all providers, including FairPoint, on a wholesale cost basis. But of course FairPoint would not own and control it, so it’s bad for them, and they’re trying to convince Maine lawmakers it’s bad for Maine residents as well.

Great Works Internet has had a running dispute with FairPoint

But then, FairPoint has had a vendetta of sorts against Great Works Internet for months, trying to overcharge the independent ISP for connectivity it obtained under provisions established in the Communications Act of 1996.

Also running interference for FairPoint is Rep. Stacey Fitts, R-Pittsfield, who serves on the Legislature’s Utilities and Energy Committee. His bill prevents any “undue” competition by UMS with existing broadband providers. In other words, he has written the FairPoint Entrenched Provider of Mediocre Broadband Protection Act. Fitts said he has concerns that the university’s efforts could have unintended consequences on private companies (read that FairPoint) that “already provide access.” It will have directly intended consequences on GWI by further disadvantaging them and potentially sinking their efforts to provide better service in Maine.

“If the university is able to bypass some of the competitive markets, and cherry pick, it could affect the ability to deliver broadband to others,” he said.

Exactly how it affects the ability of FairPoint to deliver what it has failed to demonstrate it is capable of delivering is a question Fitts doesn’t answer.


“I know this will cause a lot of discussion in committee,” he told the newspaper. “But we need to have that discussion.”

Maine Public Radio covered the introduction of Rep. Fitts’ bill, and the debate swirling around it. (3 minutes)
You must remain on this page to hear the clip, or you can download the clip and listen later.

Constituents need to have a discussion with him. Unless he wants to be known as the representative from FairPoint, he might want to get out of the way of a project that has a chance of improving broadband in his state, as opposed to the empty promises from a bankrupt provider. If he wants to tie himself to FairPoint’s record of failure, voters can choose someone else to represent them at the earliest possible opportunity.

Those with a need for high speed broadband have tried, and failed, to obtain better service from FairPoint. As Stop the Cap! has reported in exhaustive detail, FairPoint was preoccupied in delivering third world phone service at the time, finally collapsing on the courthouse steps under the weight of its bankruptcy filing.

Bills like these in Maine are further evidence that Congress needs to act on the federal level to pass the Community Broadband Act, which would overturn these kinds of bought-and-paid-for protectionist bills passed in several states. Communities must have the right to bypass companies in the broadband shortage business.

WLBZ-TV in Bangor showed what broadband brings to Maine’s health care system and other business.  (3 minutes)

MaineBiz Sunday spent nearly an hour going in-depth into broadband challenges in Maine, the problems with FairPoint Communications, the dispute with GWI, and more.  Appearing on the show, which originally aired last November: Fletcher Kittredge CEO of GWI, Phil Lindley of the ConnectMaine Authority, Steve Hand of Know Technology and Rep. Cynthia Dill of District 121 in Cape Elizabeth. (36 minutes)

Coming up…

Comcast Is Allergic to the Word “Free” Except When They Are the Recipient

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