David Cay Johnston on his new book, “The Fine Print”:
Americans are paying high prices for poor quality Internet speeds — speeds that are now slower than in other countries, according to author David Cay Johnston. He says the U.S. ranks 29th in speed worldwide.
“We’re way behind countries like Lithuania, Ukraine and Moldavia. Per bit of information moved, we pay 38 times what the Japanese pay,” Johnston tells Fresh Air’s Dave Davies. “If you buy one of these triple-play packages that are heavily advertised — where you get Internet, telephone and cable TV together — typically you’ll pay what I pay, about $160 a month including fees. The same service in France is $38 a month.”
In his new book, The Fine Print: How Big Companies Use “Plain English” to Rob You Blind, Johnston examines the fees that companies — such as cellphone and cable — have added over the years that have made bills incrementally larger.
Johnston says that telephone and cable companies worked the regulatory process and the legislatures and Congress to get the rules written for their benefit.
“Over the last 20 years, we’ve paid at least $360 billion in higher rates to the traditional telephone companies, and well north of $100 billion more to the cable companies, who all testified before Congress, made filings with regulatory agencies, bought ads on TV that told us we were going to have this information superhighway and it was going to be everywhere,” he says. “Instead, what they built was a system in very limited locations.”
Johnston cites Verizon as providing fiber-optic service to 16 million Americans with no plans to build more.
“Whole huge parts of the country — all of northwestern and central New York [and] everything away from metropolitan New York — is not scheduled to get the high-speed Internet that we paid for and we were promised,” he says.
There’s more. Go listen to the Fresh Air interview.