Friday, February 25, 2005

"Why Your Broadband Sucks" — Wired

Subtitle: "Telecom toadies (ahem, state officials) stifle competition to keep prices high."

Lawerence Lessing, writing in Wired rips into the sort of nonsense we've seen in Lafayette and around the country:

The telcos' argument isn't much more subtle than that of the simpleton who began this column: Businesses shouldn't have to compete against their governments. What the market can do, the government shouldn't. Or so the fall of the Soviet Union should have taught us.

Although this principle is true enough in most cases, it is obviously not true in all. The government should certainly not do what private enterprise can do better (e.g., make computers). And the government should not prohibit private enterprise from competing against it (e.g., FedEx). But the government also should not act as the cat's paw for one of the most powerful industries in the nation by making competition against that industry illegal, whether from government or not. This is true, at least, when it is unclear just what kind of "good" such competition might produce.

Broadband is the perfect example. The private market has failed the US so far. At the beginning, we led the world in broadband deployment. But by 2004, we ranked an embarrassing 13th. There are many places, like Philadelphia, where service is lacking. And there are many places, like San Francisco, where competition is lacking. The result of the duopoly that currently defines "competition" is that prices and service suck. We're the world's leader in Internet technology - except that we're not.

This is the second article this week that has turned a heavy dose of irony and sarcasm to good effect. I gotta say I find it bracing.

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