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National Shame: Swaths of Non-Rural US without Broadband; Time for Re-Divestiture

I want Fiber to My Home!I live in Saratoga, CA, part of “High Tech” Silicon Valley. And my neighborhood STILL does NOT have ANY broadband services.

None! (I don’t count unreliable wireless with less than 1Mbps for more than $100/month a viable consumer broadband offering).

AT&T and Comcast are the “franchised” service providers (I.E. monopolies) for the area and they have no plans for covering this neighborhood.

Areas that do have “broadband” are at 3rd world speeds. Worldwide speed tests don’t even have the US in the top 10. - Global Statistics

The US is no where to be seen. But Russia, BULGARIA, LATVIA, ROMAINIA!! Where’s the US? I know I don’t have ANY broadband in my house HERE IN SILICON VALLEY….

My startup’s office is in Mt. View California. Right in the heart of Silicon Valley. The only “high speed” service we could get is 1.5Mbps down / 512Kbps up ADSL. To get anything significantly faster we would have to pay thousands of dollars a month. WTF!?

This should be considered a National Shame.The Frankenstein of Monoploies

Its time for re-divestiture. AT&T / Verizon should never have been allowed to reform the Bell Monopoly. Comcast and Time Warner should never have been given exclusive franchises and allowed to grow so big.

This time lets do Divestiture the proper way: horizontally. Municipal Men in Trucks
The physical plant is a natural monopoly (there is no marketplace for multiple last mile capital intensive physical plants with fleets of men in trucks) and a societal common good (the value to society is high) that can not be paid for by normal corporate ROI. (See the slightly dated, but still accurate Paradox of the Best Networks)

We need to treat telecom physical plant (rights of way, conduit, dark fiber, utility poles and physical meet points) like we do roads, water and sewers. Sometimes called the “LoopCo”, it could be government owned, community owned and operated or be a regulated monopoly that is mandated and overseen to operate for the common good as open access common carrier. The Singapore National Broadband Network has it close to perfect as far as I can tell.

Oliver Ax, owner of Amsterdam's first connected houseboat
The upper layers can be competitive vibrant marketplaces, enabled by a societal common good physical infrastructure.

This is being done in other countries. Similar concepts are being pioneered in Sweden, Netherlands (Now testing 1GBps!), Singapore, Canada, and Vermont (they keep threatening to succeed, so they can count as another country) as well as many other places even in the US.

The fundamental axiom of Telecom must be Structural Separation: the entities that own/operate the transport layer must not have any say or vested interests in the Content. Some countries are making it the Law such as New Zealand, Singapore, Europe (to some degree)

We can not allow Big Telecom (along with Big Media but that’s another rant) to continue to warp the fabric of free speech, commerce, arts and culture.

Its time to start pestering your Congress-Critters, City Hall, State Legislators and Governors. Create Meet-ups, organize your neighbors. We must take back OUR communications. And learn about those who are making it real around the country and around the world. Tell them its time to break up the monopolies again. But this time lets shut them down for good.


  1. […] Cognizant Transmutaion » National Shame: Swaths of Non-Rural US without Broadband; Time for Re-Dive… I live in Saratoga, CA, part of “High Tech” Silicon Valley. And my neighborhood STILL does NOT have ANY broadband services. None! (I don’t count unreliable wireless with less than 1Mbps for more than $100/month a viable consumer broadband offering). […]

  2. Scott Berry Scott Berry December 16, 2008


    You have my sympathy. Come on out to chilly CT, where Cablevision is putting us right up there with the Netherlands and Bulgaria, at least on most days. I consider myself damn lucky, though. Cablevision seems the least evil of the telecablecos.

    That said, I agree with you completely.

  3. Thomas Leavitt Thomas Leavitt December 16, 2008

    Yes, we have a design client who lives in Saratoga, and her only option is satellite Internet. Absurd. I have multiple clients who are limited to standard ADSL if they want broadband connectivity – or paying ridiculous prices for bonded T-1s. The lucky ones sit in a building with lit Fiber, or on campus wired for Ethernet. In Santa Cruz, that means the Sash Mill comples, which happens to have an ISP – remember those? – who also runs a co-location service. $50/month buys you 10GBS Ethernet to the Internet.

  4. Esme Vos Esme Vos December 16, 2008


    Two cities – Ponca City, OK and Rock Hill, SC – that own their fiber and all mounting rights to light poles (because they are also their community’s utility company) can do all of the incredible things with this community-owned infrastructure: they deployed a muni wireless network for efficient energy management, wireless automated meter reading, public safety, free WiFi in public parks so parents at softball league games can upload photos and video to photo-sharing sites. Stuff like that they can do because they don’t have to ask AT&T’s or Verizon’s permission (unlike on some other states). They don’t have to buy these services from the incumbents at outrageous prices.

  5. dave clark dave clark December 16, 2008

    Bob – where is your sense of patriotism? The US is no longer number one in anything except for deficit budgets – why complicate matters?

    Communications implies that businesses are doing commerce, which I guess is ok on the surface – but over-rated. The scary thing is that it also allows people to share ideas and engage in critical thinking… that leads to dissent which leads to socialism which leads to communism where they take away all of the toys from the rich guys. Are you ready to pay the price for that?

    I’d say – roll with the punches… and let the banking industry control communications as well. Maximize profits for shareholders, increase the income disparity between the uber elite and average (worker bees) US citizens. If possible we should diminish electronic communications to the point where fear takes over rational thinking – where no one really knows what is going on. Get it?

    Imagine – just imagine – those punk youtubers (not to be confused with ewe tubers – which is what sheep eat) having to watch sonic youth over a 2400 baud uucp connection running on surplus barbed wire from the USSR.

    so there – harumph.

  6. Mark Mark December 18, 2008

    I don’t really care how I get higher speed DSL and I suspect most people don’t, I just want to be able to get it. I live in Cupertino the home of Apple computer and all I can get is the 1.5M down and the 256K uplink. I am willing to pay for the higher speed i.e. I like the ATT price and hope it is a money making price or I will never get this service. In Houston they have higher speed DSL why can’t Cupertino, Saratoga, and Mountain View get faster DSL speeds.

  7. Sandy Young Sandy Young December 19, 2008

    I live 30 miles outside the 9th largest city in the United States, and the fastest connection I can get is 26 k on my dialup and that is due to the age and antiquity of the lines. I could get satellite, but the least expensive is over $100 a month. The last time my phones (and internet) were out due to a storm, not a violent one, but one that wet the lines after a dry spell, which was enough, it was out for 6 days. When I called the phone company, I told them it felt like I lived in a Third World Nation. Sounds as if in many of those I would have better internet! Excellent piece! Thank you.

  8. Don Means Don Means December 19, 2008

    You make a strong case, Rob. At a minimum every local community owes itself a formal published strategy for the buildout of its telecom infrastructure.

    By what ever business model using whatever technologies in the service of whatever local policy priorities, every community needs to grasp its responsibility as distinct, unique & quantifiable market and they will either plan or be planned.

    For starters and a little extra motivation, multiply the # of households in any community however big or small, times $200/mo as a rough average cost for all telecom stuff(cable, internet, phones, satellite). Then consider what kind of infrastructure that amount could (should!) build. A small town of 3000 households is spending about $600,000/mo. for connectivity. For that you could get fiber to a poodle!

  9. johnny johnny December 29, 2008

    yQRVvW Thanks for good post

  10. Robert J Berger Robert J Berger December 27, 2009

    I tried to get Etheric Wireless this week as my expensive and limited 3G wireless became even more flakey. The folks at Etheric were very nice and I found out that I could potentially get a straight 9 mile link to their facility right on top of a major Fiber Internet node. But then when they did the site survey we found that a single tree was blocking the line of site.

    I am looking into trimming the tree but it again shows that wireless is not a viable solution to fill in for lack of Fiber, DSL and Cable deployment. I know that my neighbors have even tougher line of site issues with many of them having no line of site to the valley at all.

  11. Chris LaCroix Chris LaCroix January 29, 2010

    I have no sympathy for you rich Saratoga folks, living in your mansions on the hill. Us pit dwellers, here in Morgan Hill have plenty of bandwith. I guess you’ll just have to get in your Saab, and drive to Starbucks to hangout with the other folks and their touchscreen Macbooks:) Save the tree, drink more coffee.

  12. Chris LaCroix Chris LaCroix January 29, 2010

    How is Al Gore going to sell books and movies if you have bandwidth in the Silicon Valley and can stay home and work?
    That would be almost like allowing carbon recycling legal through bio diesel production in California. That’s just crazy talk!
    Bob, you can use my coal powered electric chainsaw.

  13. Chris LaCroix Chris LaCroix February 3, 2010

    Starbucks. It’s just Starbucks man! Cash For Clunckers? How about Cash for Clouds so we didn’t need cars to go more than 40 miles! What ever happened to telecom being a utility? Were’s the shovel ready job? I’ll dig a trench to lay fiber before filling in a pothole. Duh. Time to throw the bums out.

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