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Captive Audience: The Telecom Industry and Monopoly Power in the New Gilded Age
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Captive Audience: The Telecom Industry and Monopoly Power in the New Gilded Age

3.88  ·  Rating details ·  244 Ratings  ·  43 Reviews
Ten years ago, the United States stood at the forefront of the Internet revolution. With some of the fastest speeds and lowest prices in the world for high-speed Internet access, the nation was poised to be the global leader in the new knowledge-based economy. Today that global competitive advantage has all but vanished because of a series of government decisions and resul ...more
Hardcover, 368 pages
Published January 8th 2013 by Yale University Press (first published January 1st 2013)
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Zac Chase
May 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone with an Internet connection
Shelves: non-fiction, policy, tech
I finished reading Susan Crawford's Captive Audience: The Telecom Industry and Monopoly Power in the New Gilded Age. Now, I want everyone to read it. More than that, I think everyone should read it.

In a goodreads status update as I was reading, I noted that I was learning more in the book than I remember learning from any of of my high school or undergraduate history classes. Perhaps this feeling comes from the face that Crawford has taken as her focus something that is immediately important to
Jul 21, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a highly informative and well-researched book, but I probably won't finish it - it has become quite tedious and is already out of date in some key areas. I think it's important to be informed about the terrible state of our internet and TV content delivery systems and to know that we are prisoners of this insidious industry. But perhaps you should start by seeking out the Bill Moyers interview with Susan Crawford.
Aug 05, 2013 rated it really liked it
This is a hard book to read. It is intensely comprehensive in exploring the ramifications of the Comcast/NBCU merger, and shows in multiple ways how horrible the deal is for the public. It also explores the current state of wired and wireless communications and shows exactly how we got into the dual duopoly situation we are in now, and extrapolates the ramifications for that into the future (hint; it's not pretty). It was interesting reading this during the Comcast/CBS squabble, as that perfectl ...more
May 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Updated to 5 star review and really is a must-read in the wake of the announcement that Comcast is acquiring Time Warner Cable.

Author Susan Crawford has been referred to as "the Elizabeth Warren of the cable & telecom industry" - All opinions that follow are hers. Her key belief is that high speed Internet access should be regulated as a utility, with the primary goal of breadth of access at reasonable prices. Fiber providers would allow competing access providers use if their systems at fi
Feb 26, 2013 rated it liked it
The author is a former special assistant to President Obama for science, technology & innovation whom I first saw on “Bill Moyers & Company” on PBS. This is an informative must-read for anyone who (like me) hates their cable TV and wireless service but needs better-informed reasons.

Crawford meticulously explains how our political pashas empowered a powerful media oligarchy to put profit ahead of the public interest--gaming the system, arbitrarily raising prices (why do we have to pay for
Dec 05, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-politics

Available as a 12.5-hour audiobook in the usual formats.

I remember a movie once in which a high school student said he didn't know what was wrong with high school but it sucked and it shouldn't suck. This reflects my feeling about internet connectivity in the United States. In the last ten years, I've lived in Bulgaria and Vietnam, and internet connectivity is much more reliable than my homeland, even though the US is, by any measure, much wealthier.

This book demonstrates that it takes more time
Max F
Apr 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Fantastic book about the alarming state of affairs in today's domestic telecom industry. Although certain points are repeated again and again, the book is very well written - Susan Crawford presents her case in a logical and coherent way that telecom and non-telecom readers will easily follow. It's an eye opener for anyone who wonders why the monthly cable/wireless bill is so high. And it's a call to action for anyone who feels that the FCC and other regulators have become impotent in the face o ...more
Mike Nyerges
Jul 31, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: recently-read
Anyone interested in Net Neutrality in the U.S., or the country's emerging cable and wireless broadband monopolies, or the proposed merger of Comcast and Time Warner Cable, should read this book.

Susan Crawford, who is a law professor at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in New York City and specializes in telecommunications and information law, and who served as an ICANN board member and Special Assistant for Science, Technology, and Innovation Policy for the Obama Administration, examines
Tiffoknee the 3rd Conner
Jun 16, 2014 rated it really liked it
Returning to Texas after living in Korea for almost three years has required some significant readjustments. Not all of them good. One of the more significant, if arguably equally insignificant, of those adjustments has been getting used to the obscenely slow pace of broadband internet in the United States. There is no doubting that Korea has our butts WHOOPED when it comes to the speed, ubiquity, and affordability of high speed internet.

People here in Austin, Texas are losing their proverbial
Jeffrey Hart
Jun 20, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
The subject is how we got ourselves into this telecommunications mess where most people depend on a monopolistic cable pay tv provider for their (overpriced) high-speed Internet connection, despite the fact that those very cable companies (yes, Comcast, I am talking about you) are capable of, and have in the past engaged in, anti-competitive practices. The beginning of the book compares the telecom mess with earlier ones (railroads, in particular), making clear that anti-trust and competition la ...more
May 16, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: analysis
This book made me very angry (as I knew it would). Susan Crawford painstakingly, methodically, calmly and persuasively makes the case that telecommunications in the United States has been sold out by profit seeking corporations not acting in the best interests of the public, collusive regulators (who frequently join the industries they once regulated) and bought and paid for politicians. Republicans and Democrats alike are equally culpable. Comcast's political wizard, David Cohen, has been singl ...more
Art Neill
Apr 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, law
This book provides great insight into the shape of communications in the United States. Communications discussions can quickly get highly technical, but this book lays out the case for treating high speed, affordable, ubiquitous internet access as a basic public utility and necessity for all Americans in the 21st century. We've fallen behind other countries in broadband speed, access, and affordability, and we're leaving many lower income and rural Americans out of even our current Second-tier a ...more
Jun 01, 2013 rated it it was ok
I heard Ms. Crawford interviewed several months ago, and I really enjoyed the interview. I went into this book expecting to like it as much as I enjoyed her interview. I didn’t.

Ms. Crawford knows her subject. She is a plethora of information on the American telecom industry. Her thesis, despite what some people might expect, is solidly pro-business and pro-innovation. She argues that the current state of affairs is hindering rather than helping capitalism, while at no point dismissing left-leani
Ben Chase
Mar 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing
A fascinating read. Crawford certainly has a vision that she's pushing, but I think it's a great one. Internet connectivity has become essential for American citizens and businesses. It's too important to be left to a few conglomerates that refuse to expand to new areas, invest in infrastructure, and lower their prices. Instead, these companies are trying to prevent competition and artificially drive up the value of their service by monopolizing content and spectrum.

The book can be a bit dense a
Jemez Mama
Apr 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was not written with the best style nor was it a particularly easy read. The book contains many many references to people, government offices and committees, legislation and mergers. However, if you watch cable or satellite TV, have a cellphone, DSL or other high speed internet service, you should read this book. The wired (cable) and wireless networks have divided up the country into markets and taciturnly decided not to stop on one another's toes. The big guys are gobbling up the little g ...more
May 16, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is about the merger of Comcast and NBC Universal and 2010. The author believes it has continued the monopoly of and thus restriction of access to high speed internet except to the wealthy. The U.S. is 14th in the number of citizens having access to the internet. The countries above us have much faster and much cheaper access. I found the book difficult to read as the author assumed we knew a lot more than I did on this subject and a little more explanation and background would have been hel ...more
Feb 02, 2015 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Joanne by: 100
did not finish reading this book
only read a few pages
WHY I could not finish this book
tHE TOPIC WAS interesting
however, not being able to read this book
because of the extremely small print
I would have liked to have read this book
Very rarely, do I ever not finish a book I start to read
But, this book was impossible to read
so unfortunately I can not give an adequate review
the book looked to be a very comprehensive
in depth work about companies such as at &
Ben Brackett
Jul 31, 2013 rated it liked it
A topic near and dear to my heart. Despite being very thorough on the subject, I would actually recommend this to people who already have some background and knowledge on the situation. There's all the how that comcast and the other shitsuckers are evil, but not enough of the why and forceful reasoning why the internet has become such an essential service to the modern age that these companies have to be re-classified common carriers. And get regulated to an inch of their life because they've di ...more
Brian Wilcox
Apr 21, 2014 rated it really liked it
Not a page turner, but an important book spelling out how American consumers are being screwed by the growing monopolistic practices of the few remaining big players in telecommunications (cable, internet, cellular), and how this will ultimately hurt America's global competitiveness as we fall further and further behind in terms of the quality, speed and cost of high-speed data services. Reading this should leave one terrified regarding the likely consequences (poorer service at a higher price) ...more
Will Kent
Aug 07, 2014 rated it it was amazing
If you are at all curious about net neutrality, business, and the internet (as we know and love it), this book is worth your while. It gives a history of how industry standards came to be, how large ISPs rose to power, and how telecoms divide and conquer everything efficiently and ruthlessly. The style is a little dry and matter-of-fact, but this subject matter is only becoming more and more urgent.
Feb 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing
A really excellent polemic on a topic I've tried to avoid, because I find it confusing: telecommunications & regulation. Crawford is a crisp, clear writer, who avoids jargon and methodically lays out the evidence for her arguments. Thought-provoking. It's an academic book, but I hope it reaches a wider audience. I seriously learned a lot. Crawford gets the balance right between details, anecdotes, and big-picture.
Jan 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing
What an incredibly well research, frighteningly current, intellectual book. Susan Crawford presents the facts and explains them in a way that's easy for people who are not familiar with the industry to understand. She presents not only her viewpoint, but also explains the motivations and arguments behind cable's (and phone, railroad, etc.) actions. It's a shame this issue doesn't get more attention. Extremely proud she is a professor where I work!
Apr 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Really great book on an important topic. The technical aspects of telecommunications and ISPs in particular can get very difficult but Crawford does as good a job as possible to explain the necessary technologies using analogies to other common use monopolies from history. I've never read a clearer analysis on the macro strategy of telecoms - pretty sad considering that Comcast's acquisition of NBC should have had every media outlet at least broaching this subject.
Feb 15, 2015 rated it it was ok
I'm glad I read it as I learned a lot. I agree with the author's point of view but I thought it was a bit repetitive and could have been shorter. It helped to have been a Communications major as an undergrad and it is not a book for everyone. If you are interested in the telecom industry and business, you should find it an interesting read.
Jan 27, 2015 rated it really liked it
This was an extremely informative book on the communication industry. It centered around the NBC/Comcast merger and provided an expansive historical context of the attempt of large corporations to establish monopolies. The content of this book is especially relevant with the recent talk of net neutrality.
Sep 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing
It is frightening to think that the stranglehold of Comcast will hold back America's ability to give its citizens the high speed internet and communications that will propel us into innovation jobs and a better life. It is horrifying that Comcast and others would be able to control communications to the extent we receive only what they permit. Big Brother lives.
Apr 16, 2013 rated it it was ok
So I decided that I'm not going to finish this book, which causes me great torment as I feel a compulsion to finish every book I start. This isn't to say that the subject matter doesn't resonate with me (it does) but rather that the writing is repetitive and banal as to belabor what seems to be a simple issue.
Garrett Mccutcheon
May 27, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: engineering
Essential reading to understand the current state of the telecom industry and the current debate about net neutrality. Well researched and well written. The author does a good job of conveying her position and makes a very convincing argument for her ideas of the future of the telecom industry.
Brian Morgan
Aug 13, 2014 rated it liked it
The US falls way behind in high-speed Internet access compared to other countries. This book explains why this occurred, and why it is unlikely to change as monopolistic companies don't want it to happen.
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The telecom idudustry and monopoly power in the New Gilded Age 1 3 Mar 08, 2013 10:25AM  
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“By cooperating, Verizon Wireless is implicitly promising that the FiOS service will spread no farther; Comcast and Time Warner, for their part, are implicitly promising that they will not go into the wireless business.” 0 likes
“The ownership and operation of municipal light plants stands upon a different basis from that of the ownership of water works, with which it is so often compared. Water is a necessity to the health and life of every individual member of a community. … It must be supplied in order to preserve the public health, whether it can be done profitably or not, and must be furnished, not to a few individuals, but to every individual. Electric lights are different. Electricity is not in any sense a necessity, and under no conditions is it universally used by the people of a community. It is but a luxury enjoyed by a small proportion of the members of any municipality, and yet if the plant be owned and operated by the city, the burden of such ownership and operation must be borne by all the people through taxation.17” 0 likes
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