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Susan Crawford on the internet's 'deepening inequality' and how you're being held 'captive'

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Susan Crawford
Susan Crawford

Susan Crawford is no stranger to the web. Among other accomplishments, she once served as a special assistant to President Obama on matters related to science, technology and innovation. And like many consumers, she's grown tired of an internet that's increasingly dominated by conglomerates like Comcast, Time Warner, Verizon, and AT&T. "They're charging us a lot for internet access and giving us second-class access," she tells host Bill Moyers during a recent interview.

"This feels to 300 million Americans like a utility, like something that's just essential for life," says Crawford, now a communications law professor at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School, "and the issue of how it's controlled and how expensive it is and how few americans actually sign up for it is not really on the radar screen."

Crawford outlines the growing disparity between the cost consumers are paying and the internet speeds they're seeing for that investment. "In Hong Kong, right now, you can get a 500Mbps symmetric connection that's unimaginably fast from our standpoint for about $25 per month. In Seoul, for $30 you get three choices of different providers of fiber for your apartment, and they come and install in a day because competition is so fierce." Simply by comparing those rates to a typical Time Warner subscription, she makes clear that US consumers are getting a raw deal. Still, Crawford doesn't seem to harbor ill will toward these massive industry players. "These are good American companies," she concedes while claiming that their profit motives "don't line up with our social needs." The entire 25-minute interview is absolutely worth your time.