FOR anyone struggling to find any more reasons to dislike Comcast and Verizon, there is this:
Gov. Ralph Northam has a goal of bringing universal broadband to Virginia within a decade, but the aforementioned communications giants won’t tell the state who has internet service and who doesn’t. They claim it’s proprietary information.
The Virginia Mercury quotes Northam’s broadband czar, Evan Feinman, as saying that, because no regulatory body makes the companies provide this information, they refuse to do so.
Working on such information as it has, the commonwealth estimates that about 660,000 homes and businesses don’t have broadband coverage.
Comcast offers mandated coverage reports twice a year, but those maps don’t require information on a house-by-house basis, making them somewhat worthless. According to Feinman, maps show that all of Hanover and Amelia counties are covered, a claim that he (and no doubt some Hanover and Amelia residents) term “laughable.”
The state is trying to cope by asking localities to tell them who has coverage and who doesn’t, but it is a low-tech, imperfect solution.
In southern Spotsylvania County, Caroline County and all through the Northern Neck, service is spotty at best. Libraries in the Neck and elsewhere are providing the only link many rural residents have to the big online world.
It’s a nationwide problem. A 2017 study by the Federal Communications Commission reported that 39 percent of rural communities across the U.S. don’t have broadband access.
Not having high-speed internet access in 2019 is like not having phone and electrical service 80 years ago. People who don’t have it get left behind.
As if the high-handedness of Verizon and Comcast in refusing to reveal who does and doesn’t have broadband isn’t enough, there’s also this:
On the bills these companies send every month, there is a thing called the Federal Universal Service Charge, sometimes called the Universal Connectivity Charge. Telecom companies are required by the FCC to contribute to a fund that goes toward offering affordable internet service to underserved areas.
This isn’t a huge imposition for the big boys, however, because they just pass the charge on to their customers in the form of the aforementioned Federal Universal Service Charge.
So the big internet service providers can’t or won’t get everyone connected, despite the fact that they are forced to contribute to a fund created to do just that. They then tack on a charge to customers’ bills to help pay for it. And when the state asks for their coverage maps in order to try to do what the telecoms aren’t doing, Verizon and Comcast refuse to help.
If there are worse corporate citizens out there, we’d like to know who they are.