Captive Audience: The Telecom Industry and Monopoly Power in the New Gilded Age


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Ten years ago, the United States stood at the forefront of the Internet revolution.


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With some of the fastest speeds and lowest prices in the world for high-speed Internet access, the nation was poised to be the global leader in the new knowledge-based economy. Today that global competitive advantage has all but vanishedbecause of a series of government decisions and resulting monopolies that have allowed dozens of countries, including Japan and South Korea, to pass usin both speed and price of broadband. This steady slide backward not only deprives consumers of vital services needed in a competitive employment and business market it also threatens the economic future of the nation.

This important book by leading telecommunications policy expert Susan Crawford explores why Americans are now paying much more but getting much less when it comes to high-speed Internet access.


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Using the merger between Comcast and NBC Universal as a lens, Crawford examines how we have created the biggest monopoly since the breakup of Standard Oil a century ago. The thesis of the work is this — due to a combination of deregulation, vertical integration through mergers, collusion with regard to market segmentation, and a revolving door between the leadership in the FCC and the telecommunications industry, the U.

Susan Crawford’s Captive Audience Talk at the MIT Media Lab

Quite succinctly, Crawford states that the U. For those unfamiliar with her, Susan Crawford may well be the foremost authority on this topic. Crawford begins this work by exploring the development of the first American monopolies and trusts — found in the railroad and oil industries — and how they were eventually reined in and regulated by the federal government. She then moves on to examine other monopolies such as telegraph and telephone services, and eventually arrives at the uniting concept of common carriage.

From here, the author deftly tells the story of the American cable industry — with an emphasis on Comcast — from its humble beginnings to its current behemoth status, paying special regard to the means by which the industry has manipulated the FCC and federal government as a whole.

Susan Crawford’s Captive Audience Talk at the MIT Media Lab – MIT Center for Civic Media

Essentially, Crawford establishes the common carrier concept to explain how cable ISPs managed to escape being labeled as such, no matter how well the proverbial shoe fits. After discussing the Comcast and NBC Universal merger and its importance in allowing one company to control both the information conduit and content — a frightening precedent for anyone who values the openness of the Internet — Crawford arrives at her proposed solution: municipal open access and non—discriminatory fiber optic networks.

Internet access would then be a public utility akin to water and electricity.

Captive Audience

Further, she argues that high—speed Internet access in an information society and economy is as vital to American success as electricity was a little over a century ago. While the author is by no means a neutral party when retelling the history of cable ISPs her acerbic tone is often impossible to ignore , the research is sound and multifaceted.

Captive Audience: The Telecom Industry and Monopoly Power in the New Gilded Age Captive Audience: The Telecom Industry and Monopoly Power in the New Gilded Age
Captive Audience: The Telecom Industry and Monopoly Power in the New Gilded Age Captive Audience: The Telecom Industry and Monopoly Power in the New Gilded Age
Captive Audience: The Telecom Industry and Monopoly Power in the New Gilded Age Captive Audience: The Telecom Industry and Monopoly Power in the New Gilded Age
Captive Audience: The Telecom Industry and Monopoly Power in the New Gilded Age Captive Audience: The Telecom Industry and Monopoly Power in the New Gilded Age
Captive Audience: The Telecom Industry and Monopoly Power in the New Gilded Age Captive Audience: The Telecom Industry and Monopoly Power in the New Gilded Age
Captive Audience: The Telecom Industry and Monopoly Power in the New Gilded Age Captive Audience: The Telecom Industry and Monopoly Power in the New Gilded Age

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