John McCain Blamed for Sucky Broadband in US

Illustration for article titled John McCain Blamed for Sucky Broadband in US

Our friend (and Wired editor) Nick Thompson wrote a piece in the Washington Monthly accusing John McCain for the sorry state of America's broadband. It seems the email-avoiding presidential candidate, as chair of the Senate Commerce Committee, supported too much consolidation and too little oversight. The end result? "Since 2000, the United States has gone from fifth in the world to twenty-second in broadband penetration." To make matters worse for McCain, Thompson points out that France, the scourge of Republicans and veterans alike, now has broadband that's four times as fast—and half the price! Admittedly, there's a bit of fuzzy matching required to join McCain's vehement opposition to the 1996 Telecommuncations Act and his subsequent statutory castration of its powers with the slow increase of our cable modem's actual download speed. However, there's no disputing the fact that McCain has done nothing to grow broadband penetration. (Even that comedic allegation that he helped invent the BlackBerry doesn't do anything to support any kind of breaching of the digital divide.) In fairness to anyone who thinks we're reporting this lopsidedly, we have previously shared reports about Democratic vice-presidential candidate Joe Biden's opposition to net-neutrality legislation, and his Hollywood-backed war against citizen-pirates. And the reason we haven't discussed Sarah Palin's stance is simple—she's a clean slate, baby. Not a word on any of this. But as you might imagine, Thompson uses his main point—McCain's consistent and ongoing hampering of the kinds of technological innovation that are commonplace in other countries—as a good reason to repeat what we have also recorded on Giz, that Barack Obama's attention to these matters will not be so blasé, that in fact he has interesting ideas, not just that America needs a cabinet-level CTO or that there should be true neutrality on the internet, but that, for instance, rural-phone subsidies are used to provide rural broadband (which would basically includes free phone service anyway). Thompson makes the point that Silicon Valley has gone O, saying that 555 employees of Google have donated to Obama, compared to 26 for McCain. He says the market freedom that McCain wants is "freedom for his country to fall further and further behind as AT&T and the other telecom leviathans sit back, ignoring your customer service calls and just watching the $90 monthly checks roll in." That's harsh, Nick, but it also sounds pretty damn accurate. [Washington Monthly]

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DISCUSSION

Sounds like a crappy article with a crappy premise to me.

Like the current financial mess, one man (in this case John McCain) is not wholly responsible for this. Any journalist worth his salt would look at the intricate web of factors that have contributed to this. While consolidation certainly would play a part in this, did Thompson ever consider that perhaps the market has not demanded faster speeds?

Unlike France and other European (and Eastern) nations, the government does not fund, nor does it control, the means to provide broadband to the people. We are a market driven economy; the lack of broadband on the scale of those nations is because the market has not demanded it in that quantity.

There's also another significant factor that Giz and Wired ignore; the US, geographically, has a much more difficult time spreading broadband to the bulk of the population, most of which still lives away from big cities where broadband will be more prevalent. Its easy for France and Eastern nation to provide broadband on that scale because their population is tightly packed into large cities; its easier to lay the infrastructure in a dense city than it is in a rural setting.

Come on Giz, I expect more from you. Try thinking about these things before posting them.

P.S. Fix the damn italics, its annoying and hard to read.