The big telcos and cable companies pushing AB 2987 that’s now headed to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s desk claim consumers will benefit because it will increase competition and consumer choice. That’s not true for El Dorado County.
Take Verizon, for example. In a recent news release, the telco asserted the Digital Infrastructure and Video Choice Act “overhauls the state's outdated cable-franchising process and paves the way for new competitors such as Verizon to offer consumers a choice in video programming, better technology and increased value in a highly dynamic marketplace.”
The news release goes on to promise that if Schwarzenegger signs the bill into law, Verizon plans to accelerate the pace of its fiber network construction “to deliver the fastest broadband and best video service in many more communities across the state.” Does that increased competition mean Verizon will compete with AT&T in El Dorado County with its fiber optic-based system, possibly spurring Ma Bell to upgrade her creaky, aged copper cable-based system to fiber optic as well? Nope, says Verizon spokesman Jonathan Davies. Davies says that for the “foreseeable future, we will be concentrating on building the fiber network in our service territory.” In other words, where it’s not currently competing with AT&T for wire line-based telecommunications services. From this blogger’s perspective, that’s hardly the competition Verizon, AT&T and the cable providers promise consumers in their lobbying and PR for AB 2987.
Davies adds that Verizon hopes its fiber optic network will establish “a new standard for broadband capacity” to “encourage other carriers to upgrade their networks.” That’s also a fallacy. It might be plausible if there was true competition between Verizon and AT&T in places like El Dorado County. The fact is there is none. Only one telco (AT&T) serves El Dorado County. So the choice for county residents and businesses is whatever Ma Bell’s offering, which for too many is noisy, unreliable voice service, antiquated, circa 1993 dial up Internet access, or costly and inferior satellite-based Internet. Or simply do without and live in the 19th century. When there’s no competition, consumers lose and they’re losing big time in El Dorado County.