The Great Cellphone (And Broadband) Debate Continues
Justin Fox has already filled you in on the ongoing Brainstorm debate about the quality of U.S. mobile networks. (Thomas Hazlett thinks we're doing just fine, others wonder why we lag Europe and Korea.) That debate - and a continuing discussion about the underwhelming broadband penetration rate in the U.S. - raged on at the Connected Without Wires panel.
One audience member complained that he couldn't complete his 20-minute drive to work without multiple dropped calls. Chris Sacca of Google, no appologist for the big phone companies, was nevertheless sympathetic to their situations. He's the guy working on trying to develop a free wi-fi service in San Francisco, and he recalled that one San Francisco official actually was proud of the fact that the city hadn't authorized new cell sites in recent years: No wonder our intrepid Brainstormer's service suffered.
Somehow this discussion about wireless moved into a conversation about 'Net Neutrality - legislation that Google and others are pushing to ensure that broadband providers like AT&T, Verizon and Comcast don't charge extra fees to content providers to ensure, say, faster delivery of their content to end-users. Many people feel that the heart of the issue is that the telcos in particular are looking for ways to recoup the billions of dollars they are spending to deploy fiber to neighborhoods and homes for ultra high-speed Internet - the kind of stuff you can run video over. "AT&T says it spends hundreds of millions of dollars to deliver my service to consumers," fumed Sacca. "Well, I spend hundreds of millions of dollars, too."
Alas, we at Brainstorm didn't come up with a solution to these problems. But the 'Net Neutrality issue continues to be hot in Washington, and we'll be watching to see how it plays out.
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