Minnesota AG's report reveals big telcos are literally letting their infrastructure rot

More than a decade of foot-dragging on fiber rollout has left millions of Americans dependent on taxpayer-funded copper-line infrastructure for landlines and DSL, but it's not like the carriers are plowing their no-fiber savings into copper maintenance, instead, as a report released by Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson details, incumbent telcos are literally leaving their infrastructure to rot: wires are draped across customers' lawns (and over their propane tanks!), boxes containing key network gear are left smashed and rusting, and carriers' poles and other furniture are literally propped up with 2x4s, or have random logs placed against their wires to hold them in place.

Swanson's investigation follows alarm-bells raised by the unionized telco maintenance staff and customers, who have filed more than 1,000 complaints against Frontier, Minnesota's incumbent carrier.

The neglect is takes place in an environment of deregulation prompted by the rise of VoIP services, which gave the carriers and the FCC the excuse they needed to allow the telcos to self-regulate their copper-line infrastructure.

One problem is that internet voice and VOIP services became more common in the early aughts, the nation's phone companies used this surge in voice competition to convince both state and federal lawmakers meaningful oversight was no longer necessary. Now, for every state like Minnesota, there's countless states that do little to nothing about this dysfunction.

The result are companies that can't even technically offer even the FCC's base definition of "broadband" (25 Mbps), yet often charge the same or higher prices users in more developed areas pay for gigabit (1000 Mbps) broadband. All while actively undermining local community efforts to build better, faster broadband networks.

Mitchell pointed to numerous examples where Frontier executives and lobbyists have attempted to sue, hinder, or otherwise hamstring local efforts to bring better service to these long-neglected areas. If Frontier doesn't want to upgrade its lines, Mitchell noted, the least it can do is get out of the way of those looking at creative, local alternatives.

"In 2019, any policy maker that listens to a lobbyist from Frontier should be held criminally negligent," Mitchell said.

American Phone Companies Are Literally Letting Their Networks Fall Apart [Karl Bode/Motherboard]