Question: what do broadband oligopolies and global warming have in common? Answer: they both have their share of deniers. Chief among them in both cases is the American Enterprise Institute, an influential right-wing think tank funded by the likes of Exxon and AT&T.
The AEI has been on a tear of late in regards to broadband, paying writers and academics to counter the raft of literature and critics who are rightfully complaining about the moribund state of high-speed internet access in the United States (which has relevance to Canada, where the situation is similar).
Just this week, the organization fielded its own columnist James Pethokoukis to pen “10 reasons why U.S. broadband isn’t as bad as you think” for Business Insider, and Roslyn Layton, an American working as a professor and telecom consultant in Denmark, to write about how “America’s broadband service is not falling behind.”
Both articles offer the same rationalizations put forward by another think tank, the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, in a report earlier this month that found American broadband to be, well, not so bad. The articles and report offer up some great guffaws, like pointing out that the United States leads the world in 4G/LTE wireless deployment, as if that’s supposed to mean anything.
Ars Technica did a good job of dismantling the original AEI report. On the LTE point, for example, Ars pointed out that while 4G wireless is indeed pretty fast, it’s prohibitively expensive with relatively tiny data caps. It’s not an adequate replacement or competitor to wired internet by any stretch of the imagination, nor is it likely to ever be.
The AEI is the same group that was busted years ago for offering $10,000 cheques to scientists and economists willing to dispute a major climate change report. The organization, which had close ties with the Bush administration, was doing its level best to prevent new regulations from hitting its sources of funding by introducing doubt into the science. You know, much like they’re trying to do now with the broadband situation.
Fortunately, there are credible people talking about the other side of the story, such as Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist David Cay Johnston, who says telecommunications is grossly uncompetitive:
A growing number of industries are monopolies, duopolies and oligopolies, even as they claim to be in highly competitive markets. Cable, internet and telephone provide a good example of this. In most places you have one phone company and one cable company offering similarly slow, by world standards, internet speeds and very similar prices.
But hey, that’s just his imagination, right? He probably also thinks the world is getting warmer. What a kook.