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How corporations stole the high speed internet you paid for

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How corporations stole the high speed internet you paid for

Back in 1994, the phrase Information SuperHighway was getting tossed around a lot. Corporations loved to put it in their brochures because it made them look modern, technically savvy, and culturally hip. Telecommunications companies especially loved it because it was the buzz phrase that would net them over $200 billion in tax grants and incentives from the U.S. government, none of which they would spend on actually creating the highway. They used the bulk of those billions to buy each other out, pocketing the rest as fat bonuses for themselves.

What did the people who were promised fiber optics to every home by 2006, paying for it many times over with greatly increased telecommunications tax, get for their money? It's 25 years later, and hardly anyone has fiber to their home. If they do, it's not nearly as fast as it could be. And all that fiber under every urban street and most highways? It's owned by private corporations, silly! After all, that's the American Way, right?

Take a look at this article from Popular Mechanics, January 1994 (pages 28-33):

Now have a look at this publication from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration outlining what happened:

The Diss-Information Superhighway — Driven by the Clinton-Gore Administrations' desire to fiberize America, the entire country in the early 1990's went into a techno-frenzy for the “Information Superhighway”, commonly known as the "National Information Infrastructure", (NII). The Bells claimed they would deliver a fiber optic future. TELE-TV and Americast, the Bells’ billion-dollar lobbying effort, was designed to pass the Telecom Act of 1996 and allow the Bells to enter long distance more than upgrade America's networks.

What Was Promised? — Using the Bells own words and filings, by 2000, approximately 50 million homes should have been rewired with a fiber optic wiring to the home, capable of 45 Mbps in two directions, which could handle over 500 channels of video and was totally open to competition. About 86 million households should be wired by 2006.

By the late 1990s, when it was clear that the promised huge increases in size and speed of the internet weren't going to happen any time soon, the phrase morphed into the Information SuperHypeway, then disappeared altogether. The collapse of the bubble, inflated by people believing the promises the telcos had made, collapsed shortly after.

Personal note: Back in 1994 I'd already spent a decade working with the internet and other early networks, private and public, so I was quite looking forward to fiber connecting homes and businesses. I was part of a few companies and government departments that were scaling up to provide services for the coming superhighway. The fiber never arrived; internet speeds crawled upwards slowly over the decades as cable and phone companies offered only copper to homes, and saved the fiber for businesses which had to pay obscene monthly fees to use the infrastructure they had already paid for.

Quite a compelling case could be made that because of the obscene amounts of money these corporations received to build something they never finished, the internet infrastructure should be returned to the people who paid for it (many times over) - the public.