Could Facebook End the Cable Companies’ Chokehold on Broadband Access with Its New Solar Powered Drones?
For years the big cable providers — Verizon, AT&T and others — have been justifying massive rate hikes with assurances that they need the money to wire the entire country with broadband.
But instead of using the money to bring wireless infrastructure to rural America, which they are legally obligated to do, they’ve spent it on lobbying lawmakers to quietly get them off the hook, saying it’s now too expensive.
Oh, and they want to keep the money anyway.
According to Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist David Cay Johnston, who has been one of the only people writing on the should-be-scandalous subject, “This is just part of one of the biggest scams — crimes? — in the country as we paid as customers more than $300 billion — more than $1,000 per person — for something we are not going to get.”
So many will feel a great sense of schadenfreude to read today that Facebook announced its plans to bring wireless internet to rural communities with the acquisition of British-based aerospace company Ascenta.
Facebook created the video above to demonstrate its commitment “to make affordable internet access available to everyone on the planet.” Which they hope to do with a fleet of solar-powered drones that fly above the level at which commercial airlines fly, beaming internet connectivity down in much the same way a sattelite would.
Facebook had also been in discussions to purchase Titan Aerospace, but no mention was made of that in yesterday’s announcement.
The idea of Facebook filling the air with a network of unmanned drones isn’t all beer and Skittles, however. Aside from privacy concerns, does anyone really want to see Facebook — with its vast accumulation of private data on people around the world — any cozier with the Department of Defense and US spy agencies than they already are? And then, you know, drones.
Mark Zuckerberg attempted to deflect any queasiness people might feel at Facebook essentially buying a defense contractor that makes easily weaponizable solar-powered drones by focusing on the company’s goal of universal internet access, which could effectively end the cable providers’ monopoly.
But even if this is an unreasonably benign picture of the company’s future plans for the drones, it’s nice to think of the telecoms squirming uncomfortably today at the thought of their cushy, overpriced monopoly that is little more than a government-protected wealth extraction machine under serious threat.