Uncle Walt bends FCC chairman over his knee

May 29, 2008

Walt_MossbergKevin_MartinWalt Mossberg, the world’s most powerful technology product reviewer, opened the final session of the D: All Things Digital conference with an angry tirade against the s-s-s-low state of broadband in the United States.

“WE ARE VERY SLOW,” Mossberg complained of U.S. Internet access speeds.

The target of 61-year-old Uncle Walt’s wrath was Kevin Martin, 42, the boyish-looking chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, who was punished on-stage before an audience of high-tech industry insiders.

Mossberg: “You are the head of the FCC. How have you allowed this to happen? I AM DEAD SERIOUS. HOW HAVE YOU ALLOWED THIS TO HAPPEN?

Martin: “I am not sure I am solely responsible. I am also not sure the charts capture the whole story. I think you do have to put in the context some of the demographics of the United States and some of the countries we are competing against.

Mossberg: Does that explain why we pay $12.50 per megabit in the United States as opposed to $3.09 in Japan and $3.70 in France? Why are we paying four times as much?

Martin: Yes it does. Because it costs a lot more to build out in more rural areas and people who live further apart… We have a history of averaging some of the cost to make it affordable for people in Montana.

Martin should have seen it coming. Mossberg has been on a crusade over slow broadband speeds for some time, including a call to stop calling slower-speed DSL “broadband.” It’s just one of the many things that annoy him about how computer and consumer electronics industries treat their consumers. Other pet peeves include junk programs pre-installed by PC makers Mossberg calls craplets and any device that doesn’t aspire to Apple-scale product design genius.

Here are the stats that Mossberg and Martin were debating:


(Photos: Reuters)




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Bless Uncle Walt for taking that guy to task.

Unfortunately, despite its name, the FCC has no real interest in facilitation of communication in any form. They’re much more interested in being the censorship bureau.

Posted by David | Report as abusive

Martin is right.
The geography and the population spread across the US is not favorable for cheap deployments.
Wireless services and more competition would be the way.
Wireless is limited however in terms of bits per second unless one deploys more towers.
Competition is being strangled by the big incumbents.

There is a need for new innovative ideas.

Alternatively bring in chinese, indian or mexican folks from abroad to do the digging and installation of fibers. Deployment costs will go down dramatically and sub fees will go down. But is this what we want?

Posted by Tito | Report as abusive

Just “[b]ecause it costs a lot more to build out in more rural areas and people who live further apart” doesn’t mean the service in cities and suburbs has too be so inferior. The averaging of costs may seem like a good excuse under a shallow cursory look, but it falls apart with examination.

Posted by Jerry | Report as abusive