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June 07, 2002

Why Monopoly Broadband is Good

When telecom regulation is discussed, fellow progressive technology advocates extol the wonders of competition. With broadband Internet, as detailed in today's Salon article on broadband, many folks are worried about the FCC not requiring cable and phone companies to give equal access to competitors.
...The article makes a false analogy to ISPs getting equal access to phone lines, but the hard fact is that ISPs actually provided a service-- they converted analog signals to digital Internet information. With digital broadband, on the other hand, your computer is on the Internet in an unbroken signal from the second you connect to your broadband modem. Why let other companies compete to provide a non-service?
...It's worth remembering that before 1996 there was never any competition for the cost of the actual analog telephone call to the ISP (and really isn't more than token competition most places today).
...There are real worries about cable companies trying to mess with what services you can use with broadband access, but rather than hoping some mystical ISP competition will help that, why not just lobby directly for regulations to require completely neutral access to the Internet for broadband users?
...I've written more about the problems of the ISP competition model in A Broadband Mandate? and The Telecom Meltdown.
...I admit to being a hopeless Bell System nostalgic-- give the telecom companies their efficient monopolies, then directly regulate the hell out of the prices and services charged to consumers. It just makes more sense than the chaotic, complex and ultimately failed "competition" model.

Posted by Nathan at June 7, 2002 01:30 AM

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