Time Warner keeps telling me it’s my computer.
From The Week.
According to a recent study by Ookla Speedtest, the U.S. ranks a shocking 31st in the world in terms of average download speeds. The leaders in the world are Hong Kong at 72.49 Mbps and Singapore on 58.84 Mbps. And America? Averaging speeds of 20.77 Mbps, it falls behind countries like Estonia, Hungary, Slovakia, and Uruguay.
Its upload speeds are even worse. Globally, the U.S. ranks 42nd with an average upload speed of 6.31 Mbps, behind Lesotho, Belarus, Slovenia, and other countries you only hear mentioned on Jeopardy.
So how did America fall behind? How did the country that literally invented the internet — and the home to world-leading tech companies such as Apple, Microsoft, Netflix, Facebook, Google, and Cisco — fall behind so many others in download speeds?
Susan Crawford argues that “huge telecommunication companies” such as Comcast, Time Warner, Verizon, and AT&T have “divided up markets and put themselves in a position where they’re subject to no competition.”
How? The 1996 Telecommunications Act — which was meant to foster competition — allowed cable companies and telecoms companies to simply divide markets and merge their way to monopoly, allowing them to charge customers higher and higher prices without the kind of investment in internet infrastructure, especially in next-generation fiber optic connections, that is ongoing in other countries. Fiber optic connections offer a particularly compelling example. While expensive to build, they offer faster and smoother connections than traditional copper wire connections. But Verizon stopped building out fiber optic infrastructure in 2010 — citing high costs — just as other countries were getting to work.
Of course, in the few places where a new competitor like Google Fiber has appeared, telecoms companies have been spooked and forced to cut prices and improve service in response to the new competition. But that isn’t happening everywhere. It’s very expensive for a new competitor to come into a market, like telecommunications, that has very high barriers to entry. Laying copper wire or fiber optic cable is expensive, and if the incumbent companies won’t grant new competitors access to their infrastructure, then the free market forces of competition don’t work and infrastructure stagnates, even as consumer anger and desire for competition rises due to poor service.
I know one damned thing, Time Warner has a fucking monopoly on cable service in my area, and it sucks. To make matters worse, Comcast just bought them out, so the possibility of a rate hike with continued bad service is likely. The service gets worse with each passing day, and the prices are outrageous. We have the option of switching to AT&T U-verse, Direct, or Dish, but if they’re all as bad as Time Warner, it’s not worth it.