Let’s state the obvious: Internet in the U.S. sucks. Unless you already have fiber, you’re probably stuck with cable, DSL, or no internet at all because no ISP wants to expand into your area. If you live in a rural area and are lucky to get some form of broadband, you’re probably paying an exorbitant amount for slower than molasses speeds. And most people, about 83.3 million according to a recent report from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR), can only access broadband through a single provider. There’s no incentive for major ISPs to actually offer their customers good service. Instead, their focus is on short-term profits—even if that means leaving money on the table and customers on DSL.
Our own Alex Cranz and Brian Kahn recently spoke with Electronic Frontier Foundation special adviser Cory Doctorow about how ISPs continue to wreck their own internet service, overcharge customers, shut out competition, and leave a significant chunk of urban and rural America pleading for more affordable and better broadband. (You can listen to this first episode of the System Reboot podcast here.) The podcast is a nice overview of the problems with ISPs, but I wanted to dig a bit further into one key element of Doctorow’s focus in the episode: The case of Frontier’s bankruptcy. It’s especially illuminating when it comes to tracing the steps of how ISPs got this monopolistic power over consumers and continue to wield it to absolute ill effects.
The Internet Is Broken, and ISPs Are to Blame
Communication has long been an area of focus, but for many companies during the pandemic, it has been a game changer, panelists say.
Adapt and adopt are two of the business mantras the COVID-19 pandemic has wrought. The “unexpected good news” when the pandemic began was that so-called slingshot workers who wouldn’t adapt to new collaboration technologies did, according to Wayne Kurtzman, research director, social and collaboration, at IDC.
Kurtzman was one of the panelists speaking Wednesday at the Slack Frontiers conference session, “Human, inclusive, flexible: Insights on remote collaboration,” where the discussion was framed around reassessing how colleagues collaborate.
“You had connected workers and those who weren’t going to adopt who are now willing to learn, and there are people willing to mentor them so businesses can and have changed fast,” Kurtzman said. That group has “helped power the market by adopting collaboration technologies,” which he said has been “accelerated by five years in the past six months alone thanks to learners and the mentors.”
This happened through security, governance, and compliance, he said. Conferencing became more important than ever so workers could feel connected to one other once remote work began.
But workers have to feel they are in a trusted and safe inclusive place, he added, and businesses have had to build a collaborative tech stack to develop a collaborative culture.
Some 65% of all collaboration apps inside an organization started as unauthorized tools from people who “figured out this will help us work better, faster, cheaper,” he said.
Now, over 90% of enterprises will be adding team collaborative management, security, video, and traditional productivity suites, Kurztman said, citing a recent IDC study. “The way we’re working is changing and we’re