Inventor Of The Cell Phone Marvels At Entirely Avoidable US Broadband Gaps

from the it-doesn't-have-to-be-this-way dept

One the one hand, you have wireless carriers telling anybody who'll listen that 5G will soon create the incredible, smart cities of tomorrow and no limit of incredible innovation. On the other hand, you have 42 million Americans without access to broadband during a plague, and tens of millions more stuck paying high prices for slow services thanks to monopolization and a lack of competition. It's a discordant reality gap that isn't lost on Martin Cooper, who invented the first cell phone (the Motorola Dynatac 8000x) in 1973. In an interview at CNET, Cooper pointed out how despite a history of innovation, the United States still somehow can't make broadband both universal and affordable, which is why 40% of US students struggle to get online:

"Just imagine what that means over the long term," he said. "That's unacceptable." Cooper said the technology exists to deliver wireless broadband to students for as little as $5 to $10 a month, and that the government needs to be more proactive in convincing carriers to offer such services.

"It's as essential as water and food," he said. "We need to have 100% accessibility to broadband services not just for students, but everyone."

Of course that's largely because we've historically viewed broadband as a luxury good that should be exploited and barely regulated, not an essential utility, overseen by the dual guiding hands of both competent regulators (what's that?) and functional competition (huh?). That's proven to be notably problematic during a pandemic, given broadband is essential not just to online learning, employment, health care, and connection, but also to even sign up to get vaccinated. As such, he's damn right we need more "innovation" in universal and affordable broadband access policy, and less hype surrounding emerging technologies like 5G.

Cooper also shared some thoughts on the fact that the nation's largest companies tend to dominate spectrum auctions, resulting in valuable spectrum being hoarded by a select number of companies that aren't always interested in equitable use of that spectrum (especially by competitors):

"There's plentiful spectrum," he said, noting that his unofficial "Cooper's Law" states that spectrum capacity doubles every two and a half years. Cooper railed against Federal Communications Commission's spectrum auctions like the one that wrapped up in late February. Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile spent $81 billion on radio airwaves for 5G services.

"Someone that has paid billions of dollars for radio airwaves would not appreciate the idea of plentiful spectrum," he said, adding that spectrum should be only allocated to companies that can deliver services that take care of human needs..."We haven't finished the internet of people yet, and the industry is already emphasizing the internet of things."

COVID-19 is placing a lot of pressure on lawmakers to finally do something about America's spotty, expensive, and sluggish broadband. But it remains a concern that all the focus will be on innovative ways to throw more subsidies at industry, and less innovation when it comes to finding ways to drive more competition to market and dismantle massive US telecom monopolies (the cause of the problem in the first place). Especially at a time when "big telecom" gets a free pass, and "big tech" is busy sucking all the policy discourse oxygen out of the room.

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Filed Under: 5g, broadband, coverage, internet access, martin cooper

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Mar 2021 @ 7:44am

    One the one hand?
    A little redundant, eh? Or is this autocorrect?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Mar 2021 @ 7:58am

    Not really

    While it’s definitely not essential, like food and water, the status quo indeed exists because of “monopolization and a lack of competition”.
    The problem with making internet access a utility, though, is that if you can’t afford to pay for a utility, you lose that service. similarly, “if you don’t pay your light bill, we’ll turn off electricity to your house”
    I agree, we need limited, correct regulation & competition...ESPECIALLY LOCAL COMPETITION.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 12 Mar 2021 @ 9:03am

      Re: Not really

      That's a problem already. Nothing would change (on that front) if Internet access was regulated like a utility.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Mar 2021 @ 9:43am

    Its come down to something when Bangaldesh, many African nations, eastern european countries and even tiny island nations have better broadband access than the US on Average.

    And the US isn't getting BETTER, its getting slower and slower. Speed caps. Data Caps, throttling, Bandwith "management".

    many Americans with "broadband" have such low data caps its roughly equivalent to a single 4k movie a month.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 12 Mar 2021 @ 11:50am

    U.N. Report Declares Internet Access a Human Right 2011.

    The right to Internet access, also known as the right to broadband or freedom to connect, is the view that all people must be able to access the Internet in order to exercise and enjoy their rights to freedom of expression and opinion and other fundamental human rights, that states have a responsibility to ensure that Internet access is broadly available, and that states may not unreasonably restrict an individual's access to the Internet.

    COmpare the USA and corp handling of the Backbone to all communication to Almost any other nation.
    Its been interesting to watcht he UN TRY to get all the nations to help each other and QUIT fighting. But int he USA is the People fighting the corps. Is there a reason for it?
    In the USA the corps and gov. have taken the Rule of cause and effect Out of capitalism. Where other countries SET regulations and Controls, to HELP the people, we let it do its OWN thing and take advantage of Everyone. Everyone? Who isnt affected?

    First the consumer pays for a service, that Service then pays off the state and fed to do its biding, Raises prices to cover what it PAID those agencies, then we dont mind to much, and around it Goes, until???
    You figure out that those in control, control TV/SAT/Cellphone/ Telephones/internet and 90% of communications around the USA. And charge for Every part of it. you end up paying for 2-4 things just to pay Cable, cell, internet. Lets see, Cable TV $100+, Cell $50, Internet $80+(all estimated and balanced across the nation) that you are paying over $200 per month, for something that could be combines into 1 Big packed and sold for $100, AT THE MOST. and make tons of money(in my opinion). But corps seem to fight themselves, as all the TV channels try to get more money from the Cable/sat services, but are PART of that group. And after the prices were posted years ago of the Price cable channels get paid, It hasnt risen very much over the years, EXCEPT ESPN, and THAT strange contract that says Every person in the USA MUCH HAVE ESPN, and PAY FOR IT.
    Last I counted there were 7 Major corps that Owned all the Channels.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Mar 2021 @ 1:59pm

    One problem in certain parts of the country is that there are radio quiet zones in the United States which makes any Internet very difficult.

    In addition to the well know one in West Virginia, there is another one in Nevada to protect Area 51, where there is low power analog voice communications near some towns, but no data.

    So when I go to my favourite campground to look at the stars at night, I have to go 65 miles to Eureka, Nevada to get on the Internet, then I have to sit at the Chevron station and connect to the WiFi at the Sundowner motel about a mile away using a 10 watt USB adapter for my laptop I bought from China some years ago.

    While the CFAA does not make it illegal to connect to their open Wifi, since you have to have used an illegally obtained password, some state laws may not be as forgiving, so I use a VPN in Cuernavaca, Mexico to get on the Internet, so that if their routers are ever inspected the only thing that auhorities will know is that someone went to a VPN in Mexico.

    While using that 10 watt device is not illegal here in California, quiet zone restrictions might make it illegal, which is why I use a VPN, pay for my gas to get back to the campground in cash, so there is no bank trail, and I use one of these license plate covers so that surveillance cameras cannot record my license plate numbers to avoid trouble with both the FCC (because of quiet zone restrictions) and law enforcement in Nevada, in case Nevada law is not at forgiving as the CFAA, or California law, regarding accessing any open WiFi (because I am not a motel guest).

    Any plate readers in town will just see a blur, when they pull up the footage.

    So there is a huge chunk of Nevada that cannot get broadband, in Nevada, because of this.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      nasch (profile), 15 Mar 2021 @ 10:12am


      So there is a huge chunk of Nevada that cannot get broadband, in Nevada, because of this.

      Broadband in the middle of the Nevada desert I think is around 67,412 on the priority list.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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