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Susan Crawford

  • ‘People need broadband’: Internet projects are taking place or in pipeline, but some concerned about their closed structure

    July 31, 2020

    There are two projects underway in western Nevada County to bring stronger internet to select homes and businesses. The first is a $27 million Bright Fiber project, connecting 2,000 households in six zones along Highway 174 — from Idaho Maryland to Chicago Park — to high-speed internet. The second is run by Nevada County Fiber Inc., using the county’s Last Mile Broadband program to bring underground fiber optic to 25 homes and businesses in the Red Dog and Banner Quaker Hill Road areas. But more projects are potentially in the works...Harvard law professor Susan Crawford believes the reason rural areas do not yet have strong, reliable internet is due to a lack of regulation over privately controlled telecommunication companies. “The completely deregulated private companies on which we depend for wired communications have systemically divided markets, avoided competition and established monopolies in their geographic footprints,” she writes in her 2018 book “Fiber.” “The results are terrible: very expensive yet second-rate data services, mostly from local cable monopolists, in richer neighborhoods; the vast majority of Americans unable to buy a fiber optic subscription at any price; and many Americans, particularly in rural and poorer areas, completely left behind.” The spaces in the U.S., and around the world, that have provided affordable and universal access to strong internet are where the service is treated like a utility, and run by a democratically operated and owned entity via either a cooperative or government agency, she argues. Kristin York, vice president of business innovation for the Sierra Business Council, said her organization shares many of Crawford’s concerns.

  • Want affordable, abundant internet access? Competition’s the key.

    June 25, 2020

    All this week, we’ve been looking at internet access, cost, infrastructure, and today, competition. Actually, the almost complete lack of competition.  According to a 2017 study from the nonprofit Institute for Local Self-Reliance, more than 129 million people in the U.S. only have one option for broadband. Is that a government problem or a free market problem? I spoke with Susan Crawford, a law professor at Harvard and the author of the book “Fiber: The Coming Tech Revolution — and Why America Might Miss It.” The following is an edited transcript of our conversation.

  • A third of Dallas families are without home internet, making online learning all the more difficult

    May 11, 2020

    Rocio Lopez paused for a second before heading into Dallas ISD’s Young Women’s STEAM Academy in Balch Springs. A handful of parents had lined up on April 24, crammed in a tight vestibule outside the school’s main office, waiting to pick up a mobile hotspot — a device that can connect computers and tablets to the internet through a cellular network...Schools in Dallas and the rest of the country are closed for the year. Learning, such as it is, now happens online. But logging online isn’t a given for many families in Dallas, where approximately 1 of every 3 people lack fixed access to the internet, Lopez included...These differences between digital haves and have-nots worry experts and educators, who see the COVID-19 crisis as a potential accelerant to existing learning and opportunity gaps. In truth, said Susan Crawford, a Harvard University law professor, author and WIRED columnist who focuses on tech and telecom policy, the inequities in broadband access were already causing problems. “Three-quarters of American teachers assume that their students have access to the internet, and hand out homework accordingly,” said Crawford, who served as former President Barack Obama’s special assistant for science, technology and innovation policy during his first year in office. “Families were already scrambling to cope with this gap in internet access, and the pandemic has shone a bright light on the terrible state of internet access in America. We have all these poor kids in America, all these kids who deserve an opportunity, not being able to exist above a subsistence level. And from the beginning of the Republic, access to education has been a central tenet to the American experiment. And here we are denying that access to potentially half of American schoolchildren.”

  • Internet access proves necessary to ‘participate in life’ during pandemic

    April 29, 2020

    Reliable, reasonably priced, high-speed internet access has been an issue in the United States for quite some time, but the ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’ are even more evident during the pandemic. Susan Crawford, a professor at Harvard Law School and author of Captive Audience: The Telecom Industry and Monopoly Power in the New Gilded Age joined KIRO Nights to discuss the digital divide. “Like many other fragile structures in American life, like our public health infrastructure, and our ability to vote securely, internet access is turning up to be a giant, difficult issue for America,” Crawford said. “It’s been in place as a huge issue for years and years, but the pandemic reveals that those who have it and have it inexpensively are able to educate their children at home…are able to visit doctors at a reasonable price without having to go directly to the hospital in person, are able to participate in life.” The coronavirus pandemic has proved the centrality of internet access to our daily lives, and Crawford said has shown we are failing as a country to make sure everyone has access. To understand the internet access situation today, Crawford went back to 2004.

  • ‘We Can Do Better’: One Plan to Erase America’s Digital Divide

    April 15, 2020

    With many millions of Americans working or attending virtual school from home during the coronavirus pandemic, the longstanding gap between those who have reliable, affordable internet and those who don’t has never been so clear. Susan Crawford, a Harvard Law School professor, has said for years that America’s internet system is broken. She advocates government intervention to help finance and oversee online pipelines, as happened previously for essential services like telephone lines and electricity. Susan’s critics say she’s proposing an unviable government overreach. But it’s clear the status quo isn’t working, so I talked to Susan about her proposed solutions. How big is the problem, exactly? No one really knows, Susan says. Microsoft estimates that 157 million Americans — about half the population — aren’t using relatively fast internet connections. The government, using different counting methods, says more than 21 million Americans, mostly in rural areas, don’t have access to fast internet. Either way, a lot of people are being left behind. In rural and suburban areas, people may have the choice of only a modern version of dial-up internet. In cities where fast internet is widespread, many lower-income people can’t afford it. Americans pay more for worse service than our counterparts in many affluent countries.

  • Maybe COVID-19 will remind us why government is not the enemy

    March 16, 2020

    An op-ed by Susan CrawfordAfter the stock market collapsed in late 1929, many people in the United States lost their jobs. By 1932, one in four Americans was suffering from lack of food. President Hoover, enamored of the efficiency of the private market and suspicious of all foreign countries, raised tariffs and waited, confident that the market would recover and all would be well again. Government intervention, he warned, would plunge the country “into socialism and collectivism.” The world seemed dark. With the COVID-19 crisis growing worse by the hour, the federal government’s colossal mishandling of it from the start — with faulty and too few tests and President Trump’s false claims that the virus was contained — may finally wake up our complacent country. We desperately need competence and courage in our government. In 1932, Franklin Roosevelt trumpeted this message before cheering crowds, and went on to swiftly create a set of government structures based on the idea that government planning and support are necessary to keep us safe, provide opportunities to all, and ensure that no one is left out. It’s too bad that it takes a crisis to remind us what government is good for, but that’s where we are today.

  • Facial Recognition Laws Are (Literally) All Over the Map

    December 16, 2019

    An article by Susan Crawford:  The current state of rules for use of facial recognition technology is literally all over the map. Next month, the city council in Portland, Oregon will hold a public meeting about blocking use of the technology by private companies, as well as by the government. San Francisco, Oakland, Calfornia, and Somerville, Massachusetts, already have banned the use of facial recognition technology by city agencies; Seattle’s police stopped using it last year; and Detroit has said facial recognition can be used only in connection with investigation of violent crimes and home invasions (and not in real time). State governments have their own rules too. In October, California joined New Hampshire and Oregon in prohibiting law enforcement from using facial recognition and other biometric tracking technology in body cameras. Illinois passed a law that permits individuals to sue over the collection and use of a range of biometric data, including fingerprints and retinal scans as well as facial recognition technology. Washington and Texas have laws similar to the one in Illinois, but don't allow for private suits. In other words, we’re headed for a major clash.

  • Do You Want Your Apps to Know About Your Last Doctor’s Visit?

    October 7, 2019

    An article by Susan Crawford: It sounds amazing. You sign up for an app that tracks your robust heart rate, your 10,000 daily steps, and other minute-by-minute data, and then, with a few short clicks, you can also download the years of medical records that show your struggles with cholesterol and the procedures you’ve had with a variety of specialists. It’s all in one convenient spot. You’ll have that option soon, by way of a little-noticed federal regulation that is winding its way toward final approval later this year. The rule would effectively wrest control over your health records from health-service providers. The idea is that, with a single click, you would be able to transfer those records to a third-party app—say, Apple Health—that could aggregate everything from every doctor you’ve ever seen.

  • JET-Powered Learning

    August 21, 2019

    1L January Experiential Term courses focus on skills-building, collaboration and self-reflection

  • Are Americans Getting Enough Fiber [Optics]?

    July 30, 2019

    Imagine an internet connection so fast and clear that all the musicians in an orchestra can play their instruments from their own homes in perfect time with colleagues scattered across the country. Imagine students in a tiny rural school taking high-level science classes taught by expert teachers 2,000 miles away, with such visual clarity that they can participate in real-time scientific experiments. That level of internet connectivity is standard in South Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore, Sweden and China. But internet service in most parts of the U.S. continues to be slow, unreliable and expensive. Because of a series of telecom policy decisions, the U.S. is falling further and further behind other nations, with a host of serious implications that affect not only the economy, education, health, and well-being but also the fabric of democracy, says Susan Crawford, clinical professor at Harvard Law School. On the national level, almost no one is paying attention, says Crawford. And she is out to change that.

  • illustration of houses and network

    Are Americans Getting Enough Fiber?

    July 23, 2019

    The U.S. is falling behind in fiber optic technology, but cities and localities are leading the way.

  • Portland is Again Blazing Trails for Open Internet Access

    May 6, 2019

    An op-ed by Susan Crawford: "Net neutrality" still gets people mad. Millions have the vague sense that the high prices, frustration over sheer unavailability, awful customer service, and feeling of helplessness associated with internet access in America would be fixed if only net neutrality were the law of the land. As I've written here in the past, that's not exactly true: Without classifying high-speed internet access as a utility and taking meaningful policy steps to ensure publicly overseen, open, reasonably priced, last-mile fiber is in place everywhere, we'll be stuck with the service we’ve got. A rule guaranteeing net neutrality–which would cover only how network providers treat content going over their lines–won’t solve the larger, structural issues of noncompetitive, high-priced access.

  • Big Telecom companies are suppressing fast internet

    April 8, 2019

    The internet is an ethereal concept. The language we use to describe it contributes to that etherealness: we speak of servers being in "the cloud," as though they were weightless in heaven, and most if not all of our internet access happens wirelessly. ... Susan Crawford, the author of “Fiber: The Coming Tech Revolution—And Why America Might Miss It,” has spent years studying the business of these underground fiber optic cables that make fast internet possible. As it turns out, the internet infrastructure situation in the United States is almost hopelessly compromised by the oligopolistic telecom industry, which, due to lack of competition and deregulation, is hesitant to invest in their aging infrastructure. “That would never happen," Crawford told me. "We saw that with electricity. We’ve seen it with internet access in America already.” This is going to pose a huge problem for the future, Crawford warns, noting that politicians as well as the telecom industry are largely inept when it comes to prepping us for a well-connected future. I spoke with Crawford via phone about her new book and the myriad problems with internet infrastructure in the US. This interview has been edited for clarity.

  • National links: Empty trains and the new Eye of Sauron

    April 5, 2019

    This small town in Denmark is getting a skyscraper, and it's not the only rural town with a tower. Maybe it's not such a good idea to get rid of transit drivers after all. Street grids are great, but sometimes you need an architechtural escape....This week on the podcast, Harvard Law Professor Susan Crawford talks about her new book Fiber about fiberoptic cables.

  • Why 5G Makes Me Reconsider the Health Effects of Cell Phones

    April 4, 2019

    An op-ed by Susan Crawford: Over the past couple of weeks, I've been reading The Uninhabitable Earth. The author, David Wallace-Wells, had me from his first sentence ("It is worse, much worse, than you think"). Wallace-Wells has done us all the great favor of clearly laying out incontestable evidence for what global warming will mean to the way we live. The book's chapters focus on humanity's ability to work and survive in increasingly hot environments, climate-change-driven effects on agriculture, the striking pace of sea-level rise, increasingly "normal" natural disasters, choking pollution, and much more. It's not an easy read emotionally. But it forces the reader to look squarely in the face of the science. Wallace-Wells points out that even though thousands of scientists, perhaps hundreds of thousands, are daily trying to impress on lay readers the urgency of collective action, the religion (his word) of technology creates a belief that, to the extent there is some distant-and-disputed problem, everything will be mysteriously solved by some combination of machine learning and post-Earth survival. We'll live in spaceships and eat lab-printed meat, and Elon Musk will fix things.I see a parallel in another big news story: the hype and enthusiasm about 5G wireless as the “thing that will make the existing [communications] model obsolete.”

  • Talking Headways Podcast: The Potential of a Fiberoptic Future

    March 21, 2019

    This week, we’re joined by Susan Crawford, the John A. Reilly Clinical Professor of Law at Harvard School of Law. Crawford talks about her new book Fiber, which focuses on how cities in the United States are trying to build communications networks with this seemingly limitless technology, yet still get pushback from regulators and incumbent companies alike.

  • Fiber Optic: The Power and Potential of Fiber Optics To Transform Communities

    March 13, 2019

    Guest Susan Crawford explains how giant corporations in the United State have held back the infrastructure improvements necessary for the country to move forward, and she describes how a few cities and towns are fighting to bring the fiber optic revolution to their communities.

  • The Race Is On For Control Of 5G Wireless Communications — And China Is In The Lead

    March 12, 2019

    The Chinese telecom giant Huawei is winning the race to build 5G networks worldwide. NPR's Audie Cornish speaks with Harvard Law professor Susan Crawford about why that's a national security threat.

  • A Harvard professor warns that the US is falling behind in deploying fiber-optic networks, and it could make inequality here even worse

    March 11, 2019

    The biggest tech problem facing the US is that it doesn't have universal access to super-fast fiber-optic internet connections, according to Susan Crawford, a telecommunication expert and professor at Harvard Law School. (Subscription required)

  • China Will Likely Corner the 5G Market—and the US Has No Plan

    February 25, 2019

    An op-ed by Susan Crawford: You may have heard that China has cornered much of the world’s supply of strategic metals and minerals crucial for new technology, including lithium, rare earths, copper, and manganese used in everything from smartphones to electric cars. ... But you may not know that China is also on track to control most of the world's flow of high-capacity online services—the new industries, relying on the immediate communication among humans and machines, that will provide the jobs and opportunities of the future.

  • Video: Susan Crawford on why America may miss the fiber revolution

    Video: Susan Crawford on why America may miss the fiber revolution

    February 22, 2019

    On February 13, the Harvard Law School Library hosted Prof. Susan Crawford for a book talk and discussion on her newly-released title, "Fiber: The Coming Tech Revolution—and Why America Might Miss It."