Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Susan Crawford's at It Again: Just One More Thing

Earlier today I published a blog, “Susan Crawford’s at It Again,” responding to Ms. Crawford’s latest piece published in the New York Times in which she  – once again – urges that the Internet be regulated as a public utility. As I said, her entire argument is based – as it always has been – on the false claim that American consumers “don’t have a choice” when it comes to Internet service providers. In my blog, I showed why this claim is wrong on several counts.

I’ll just add here this short note: There is a further problem, in addition to those I identified, with Ms. Crawford’s assertion that "nearly 75% of Americans have at most one choice for high speed data.” Apparently, she is basing her claim on Fig. 4 of the FCC’s report “Internet Access Services: Status as of December 2015,” released in November 2016. The 75% figure, however, is not for percentages of individuals served by X number of providers, but rather for the percentage of census blocks served by X number of providers. A census block is just an area of land that may have one structure on it and no residents, or perhaps several structures with only a few hundred people.

Because surely there is more broadband deployment – and more competition – where more people reside, a population-weighted measure of deployment almost certainly would look quite different and show even more choices available. In any event, as the FCC itself says in its report relied on by Ms. Crawford, taking note of its use of census blocks rather than population: “Accordingly, the number of providers shown in Figure 4 does not necessarily reflect the number of choices available to a particular household and does not purport to measure competition.”

Despite this explicit disclaimer, Ms. Crawford used the FCC data, which does not purport to measure the number of choices available to consumers or to measure competition, to do just that.

Just one more reason to question her long-standing call for public utility regulation of the Internet.