When technology trips over policy – and leaves homes unserved.

USA Today writes about the life being just a little outside broadband range. Sadly, I’m sure many readers out there know that pain or have a friend who does. What I found interesting in this article was the brainstorming that went on when Mediacom customer moved and realized she could no longer get the connection she was used to getting…

She and her husband bought a house believing they could get service from their former provider, Mediacom, at their new abode.

Not quite, the Blooming Grove, New York, cable operator replied after they moved in. Deese reported that after some negotiation, Mediacom representatives said they’d have to pay $32,000 to get service extended.

The Deeses declined that steep cost and opted for Viasat satellite-delivered Internet, which costs $220-plus a month and imposes data limits that rule out video streaming.

Mediacom spokesman Tom Larsen offered a detailed reply via email, noting that the $32,000 to extend service by 3,078 feet covered not just stringing wires from poles but adding a new node between its fiber-optic network and the coaxial cable going to homes. …

USA Today backs up the idea that this bid in not unreasonable given the cost and looked into other options…

Tom Bridge, partner at the Washington tech consultancy Technolutionary, suggested bridging the gap with a pair of Ubiquiti LiteBeam AC long-range wireless routers: “Aim them at each other and they’ll go for kilometers.”

Larsen said that allowing shared access would conflict with Mediacom’s obligations under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act to address complaints of copyright infringement by its customers: “If we have multiple households sharing a single account, then this becomes an enforcement nightmare.”

Cathy Gellis, a lawyer who frequently handles digital-copyright cases, said she understood why internet providers would fear shared-usage scenarios but noted that they already accept some risk by serving households with multiple users. “It isn’t clear that their hands are tied like this,” she wrote in an email.

At some point, 5G wireless or SpaceX’s growing constellation of low-Earth-orbit Starlink broadband satellites may offer alternatives to subscribers like Deese. Sohn also urged freeing municipalities to build their own broadband.

But for now, the problem of people who can see the nearest broadband connection but can’t get it at any reasonable price remains one we not only haven’t solved but haven’t even properly documented.

I’m a big advocate for looking for closely at tech policy because there seem to be unintended consequences happenign all of the time. I think we need a team that is looking at these tech policies from the eyes of the consumer – an ombudsman that represents the customers and communities. Someone who can assess based on a variety of needs – because especially in this era of COVID19, it is dangerous to leave people unserved.

This entry was posted in Policy by Ann Treacy. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ann Treacy

Librarian who follows rural broadband in MN and good uses of new technology (blandinonbroadband.org), hosts a radio show on MN music (mostlyminnesota.com), supports people experiencing homelessness in Minnesota (elimstrongtowershelters.org) and helps with social justice issues through Women’s March MN.

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