FCC Notes Broadband Failures While Still Snubbing Digital Divide

Ideas and Issues

New Orleans    FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski released the annual report on  broadband internet access this week in Washington, DC, bemoaning the fact that the United States is still not among the leaders in broadband speed and that 19,000,000 do not have access.  The FCC thinks this is mainly a rural problem, and god knows, having just been in Montana where even Sprint and T-Mobile can’t muster a signal in Missoula, they have a long way to go.  The FCC is claiming they have taken various steps to extend this, and I’m sure they have, but….

The FCC’s concept of “access” we are learning is a very, very limited thing.  Access for the FCC simply means that you can manage to get to the internet a bit faster if you have the big bucks to pay the bills to do so.

Nowhere was that made more clear than in reading fragments of Comcast’s latest lameness and corporate back slapping about their shell game offering of internet access to low income families.  They claim about 90,000 signed up in the last year which is better than previous results even though simply shameful when one looks at their limp efforts at any outreach and their “access by brochures” strategy of informing and enrolling people in the program.

All of this was painfully obvious in visiting Little Rock, where Comcast is the cable operator.  Talking to head start parents, some remembered seeing a brochure from Comcast, but found it indecipherable and certainly not encouraging.  Officials from principals down to teachers mentioned nothing about the “program,” if one would actually call it that.

Admittedly, Comcast still at least is doing something, no matter how pathetic, since other than Chairman Genachowski’s press conference announcements of a year ago, there is still no sign of any action by Times-Warner or Cox Cable, both of whom he claimed we launching programs this spring.  Repeated efforts by Local 100 United Labor Unions and our community partners to obtain information from these companies about any efforts to implement these programs in New Orleans, Dallas, and other cities where they operate has been fruitless to date.

The FCC likes to shout about what it is doing through the airwaves, but its follow through for low income families is a signal lost in space and just empty sounds of promises and pretense lacking any proof.