Pluralistic: 12 Feb 2021

Today's links

Aaron Epstein got fiber (permalink)

Last week, Aaron Epstein, a 90-year-old legendary Angeleno, took out ads in the WSJ shaming AT&T for the abysmal quality of the broadband service he gets in North Hollywood.

Epstein pointed out that his neighbors are locked-down film industry professionals, totally dependent on fast internet for their livelihoods – but they are stuck with 3mpbs DSL.

It worked: a week later, after national media attention, Epstein has 300mbps symmetrical fiber. AT&T figured that in this one instance, doing its job was more important than protecting its shareholders.

Epstein's service costs $45/m for the first year, and $65/m thereafter (the ad cost $10,000). The technicians who installed his fiber said that they still wouldn't be able to connect his neighbors.

AT&T's gross revenues in 2020 were $171.8b.

Ajit Pai, plague villain (permalink)

Personnel are policy: when Trump appointed the ex-Verizon lawyer Ajit Pai to run the FCC, he set in motion a series of maneuvers that would compromise broadband access for all Americans, but especially the poorest people in the country.

From the start, Pai's misconduct was breathtaking. His blockbuster manoeuvre was killing Net Neutrality on the basis of obviously fraudulent, bulk-submitted comments from stolen identities and fake email addresses.

Pai's act of neutracide has far-reaching consequences for everyone who depends on the internet, but other Pai policies were more narrowly targeted, raining down especially grave harms on the poorest, most vulnerable people in the country.

The most egregious of these were Pai's attacks on Lifeline, a rural telcoms subsidy program. Long before Pai's chairmanship, the FCC gave up on the idea of either building state-owned wires for rural users, or hoping that the telco monopolists would do so on their own.

Instead, they created Lifeline, which gave out billions in subsidies meant to provide an incentive to connect rural residents, especially remote tribal lands. Under Obama, this program was expanded to include broadband service.

Pai – who claimed concern for the digital divide – slaughtered Lifeline. He killed a $25/month subsidy for users on tribal land – a decision that a court found to be totally without evidentiary support.

Pai also eliminated Lifeline's broadband subsidy, leaving the poorest Americans with $9.25/month to help cover wireless, broadband and phone bills.

Pai correctly noted that the telco monopolists like AT&T and Sprint had routinely defrauded the lifeline program…

…But rather than censuring these companies or limiting their access to Lifeline funds, Pai excluded their small, rural competitors from the program – and then failed to implement the anti-fraud programs that would have caught Big Telco's cheating.

As Karl Bode notes on Techdirt, Pai's tenure was "fact-optional" and while the FCC has a long history of doling out special favors to the industry it's supposed to be overseeing, neutering broadband access takes on an especially grave character during a pandemic.

"42 million Americans still can't access broadband (double official FCC estimates), and millions more can't afford service thanks to monopolization and limited competition." -Bode

This is Pai's enduring legacy.

This day in history (permalink)

#20yrsago Acme Valentine Heart Maker

#15yrsago Canadian Red Cross’s dumb trademark claims are legally dubious

#15yrsago Aussie tourist charged with assault for shushing Texas movie phone-talker,20281,18104683-5001022,00.html

#10yrsago HOWTO have a D&D party for 8-year-olds

#5yrsago Ayn Rand, penis-curser

#5yrsago Austerity Robin Hood: a billionaire who takes from “scroungers” and gives to “hardworking people”

#5yrsago Tone-deaf manager announces layoffs to 1400 Carrier Air Conditioner workers whose jobs are moving to Mexico

#5yrsago Pathetic, smirking attention-whore Martin Shkreli does something

Colophon (permalink)

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Currently writing:

  • My next novel, "The Lost Cause," a post-GND novel about truth and reconciliation. Yesterday's progress: 553 words (109875 total).

  • A short story, "Jeffty is Five," for The Last Dangerous Visions. Yesterday's progress: 279 words (4826 total).

Currently reading: Analogia by George Dyson.

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"When life gives you SARS, you make sarsaparilla" -Joey "Accordion Guy" DeVilla