This one is personal. I just checked my bill for broadband internet, and Comcast nearly doubled it without telling me.
Two years ago, it was $29.99 a month. Then in September, it doubled. Now, I’m paying $98 a month for the same, barely halfway-decent internet.
No wonder Comcast is consistently America’s most hated company. There’s even a standalone entry on Wikipedia called “Criticism of Comcast.”
I’m sure you’ve experienced something similar. It’s not just Comcast. It’s Verizon, AT&T, Cox, and the whole multi-billion-dollar internet provider industry.
But at least we have the government. At least we have a chance at being protected from corporations steamrolling us for more and more profit.
The Biden administration helped squash an attempt by Comcast last year to appeal an antitrust lawsuit brought against it. Can you imagine Comcast even bigger with even more power? The federal government was also able to compel internet providers to lower the cost of high-speed internet for low-income Americans.
But there’s something even more exciting going on. With help from funding in the American Rescue Plan—which Congress passed last March—state and local governments are taking steps to building their own, public high-speed internet infrastructure.
Residents of Holland, Michigan, voted in early August to slightly increase property taxes to fund the construction of a citywide network, available to all. The buildout will be supported with American Rescue Plan federal dollars.
The city of Superior, Wisconsin, is planning to build a city-owned fiber network that could be leased by internet providers to serve customers, creating revenue for the local government.
In Erie County, New York, the local government is using American Rescue Plan dollars to restart construction of a fiber internet infrastructure project that had stalled during the pandemic. The network will be owned by the county and operated by a local nonprofit.
Of course, internet companies aren’t taking it lying down. In Holland, Comcast spent more than $110,000 on radio ads, mailers, and campaigns against the fiber broadband proposal. Their campaign was called Protect Holland Taxpayers (using age-old rhetoric that has racist roots).
Our government doesn’t have to be beholden to massive corporations. We can use it for good stuff too. In fact, it’s our only hope to address the massive crises we face, from unchecked corporate power to climate change.
Photo by Mike Mozart.