More Internet Options — in Theory

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Home Internet is one of the most sought after services in the United States. But the epidemic showed how bad things have become, we are starting to see little change.


Decades of a failed policy show how far the U.S. can go in order to have better, more equitable online access for all.

Over the past two decades, government regulators have written and rewritten rules that have landed on a straightforward goal: that Americans who live in apartment buildings can choose their Internet provider, even if the landlord has a preferred provider. In many cases, the provider pays for the privilege.

The idea is that if tenants have choices for Internet service providers – as Americans often do with mobile phone companies or grocery stores – they can find the product they want at a reasonable price.

But all of this time, apartment owners and big internet service companies have found ways around government regulations. They have effectively blocked upstart internet companies from many buildings. Regulators know this, but not much has changed.

Last month, the FCC reissued its pencils. On paper, people who live in apartments and public housing complexes will have more information and power to choose their own internet provider, no matter what their landlord likes. We will see

The government’s failure to achieve what it wants in principle is a subtle form of America’s stinking Internet.

The US has the illusion of free-market competition in Internet service. There is a lot of government regulation, but it is not particularly effective. This double standard of inactivity is crippling the US economy, wasting taxpayers ‘and consumers’ money, and alienating many Americans from modern life.

The result: Americans pay more for poor internet service than their peers in most affluent countries. About 15 million Americans, or more, lack modern Internet access; The system is so tangled that we don’t know how many there are. Many others cannot afford it.

There is a sense of urgency to solve these problems. The epidemic has made more US policymakers and people aware of the need for Internet service and the way the current system is failing us. Recent congressional funding and changes in technology are enabling new approaches to engaging Americans.

However, if government officials fail to enforce competition rules, including about one-third of Americans living in apartments, the momentum will be wasted.

Greg Guse, director of government affairs for the public interest group Public Knowledge, said the FCC apartment rules were “a cautionary tale.” “If you’re going to say you’re fixing the problem, you need to make sure you’re fixing the problem.”

In apartments, Internet service providers need landlords’ permission to install their equipment to connect tenants. In theory, homeowners should have a good excuse to say no. They often do not.

Genna Wexler, co-founder of Brooklyn Fiber, a small internet provider, told me that she regularly receives calls from potential customers in the apartment building but is rejected by property managers who cite a list of objections.

They worry about building dust or disruption to installing new company’s Internet lines – although Wexler said Brooklyn fiber can wire homes with relatively little movement. Building officials also say tenants do not need more than one Internet option.

Wexler does not approve of raising FCC rules with homeowners because Brooklyn Fiber does not have the money to handle it in the American way: by hiring lawyers. “It’s not a battle we can win; So, it’s not worth fighting, “Wexler said.

Veksler, Guice and others who want better and more reasonable Internet service in the U.S. are cautiously optimistic, however, that the FCC may offer more choices to apartment dwellers if the agency follows its rules.

After San Francisco passed legislation tightening rules for tenants’ Internet choices in 2016, city attorneys clarified what the potential penalties are if apartment owners do not comply, said Ernesto Falcone, senior legal adviser to the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Group punishments include lawsuits that can be filed by the city, service providers, or tenants. It seemed to work.

After two years of urgency and action, people who have been hardened by years of US Internet inaction are torn between hope and pessimism.

,“A big change like this doesn’t happen quickly and it’s never been easy,” said Virginia Lam Abrams, who oversees government affairs for Internet provider Starry. But, she said, “we actually have a chance to fix things that have been broken for a long time.”

  • Prosecutors have questions for TikTok: Some state attorney generals have begun investigating whether TikTok contributes to mental and physical harm to adolescents and young adults, Cecilia Kang reports. Instagram has faced similar questions.

    Related: The U.S. Surgeon General requested that large tech companies submit information about the scale and sources of false information about Covid-19.

  • An ace dramatic story of a Ukrainian pilot Many of the Russian fighter jets that crashed were widely shared online by the Ukrainian government. But it could be a myth, and was a rendering of a video montage combat flight simulator. My colleagues Stuart A. Thompson and Davy Alba write about the confusion of facts and legends in the information war against Russia.

    Related: “Our fear of Russian domination over digital discourse has always been a bit overwhelming,” writes Farhad Manju of the New York Times.

  • Amazon is still not the best of physical stores: Amazon will close more than 50 of its retail outlets, including its bookstores and outposts known as Amazon 4-Star. My colleague Karen Weiss writes that despite Amazon opening more supermarkets and other stores, the company’s filing shows that their sales have declined.

Check this out Bobbing WoodcockYes, that’s right you can now become known as a Lord of the Rings. (Thanks to my colleague Dodai Stewart for tweeting this.)

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