"Individualism and selfishness drive us to deregulate the entire telecommunications sector," she told attendees at the Freedom to Connect conference, "without regard to how it would end up for our children.
"It's like giving up clean water … or interstate highways," she said. "Where is the social contract?”
Crawford said deregulation and the telecom industry’s decision to abandon the nationwide copper phone network are contributing to the demise of universal service — the idea that all people should have access to a telephone.
The phone system's move from copper to an Internet-based infrastructure is resulting in a "connectivity crisis" that will harm American competitiveness, Crawford said, if Americans don't have equal access to a nationwide network.
She said telephone service had long been considered, along with water and electricity, to be among the utilities that were extended to all based on a "collective responsibility" to ensure that everyone receives the benefits of modern society.
Crawford said that "basic network" of services should now include Internet access, but argued deregulation is undermining that goal by creating a consolidation in the cable and wireless industries that will limit choice and make it harder for people to afford services.
One-third of people in the United States still lack Internet access, Crawford said, which will hurt competitiveness at home and abroad.
"The next Google won't come from America unless we have the sandbox [of the Internet] to play in," she said.
Thanks to monopolies in cable, she said "all [revenue] arrows are pointed in the right direction" for companies like Comcast, "because there's no competition."
Crawford decried the pending deal between Verizon and a consortium of cable companies to cross-sell each other's services.
"We predicated deregulation on the idea that these companies would compete with each other," she said.
But instead, carriers are focused on up selling more expensive bundles and not making access affordable, she said.