The Magazine

Bandwidth on the Run

On the entrance ramps to the information superhighway.

Sep 23, 2013, Vol. 19, No. 03 • By JAMES BOLOGNA
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“Comcast is the communications equivalent of Standard Oil,” writes Crawford. Indeed, in many major metropolitan areas, Comcast is the only option for high-speed wired Internet. But Crawford’s constant refrain that “Comcast=bad” tends to overpower the reader, who might suspect that the author has a personal grudge against that mammoth corporation. (For the record, Comcast ranks annually among the lowest in customer satisfaction for any American corporation.) 

 

However, apart from a lengthy history of the railroad industry, the breakup of Ma Bell, the Telecommunications Act of 1996, and the intimate details of Comcast’s family history, Crawford succeeds in laying out a vision for the future of Internet connectivity. She sees an America where reliable, affordable, truly high-speed access is available to most citizens. She highlights success stories and places where she sees glimmers of hope—including municipalities (Chattanooga, for example) that are spending city money to build their own public fiber networks, attracting investment from companies based hundreds of miles away, and creating local jobs. The best part is, these municipal Internet services offer residents faster speeds at much lower rates than Time Warner or Comcast. 

James Bologna is a graduate student in the College of Communication at Boston University.