Competition for the Internet

I know I come off as always right-leaning on a lot of my posts, and for the most part, this is true. I’m very much a supporter of the free market and letting people help themselves as much as possible. That said, the internet is one place where I’m very left-leaning. At least, I’m against the ridiculous notion of a “free market” for cable and DSL companies. Why? Because such a thing cannot exist.

For there to be a free market among the internet companies, the first thing that has to be done is for them to give back the billion of dollars in subsidies they’ve been given. Considering how badly they’re raping the average customer, that shouldn’t be all that hard to pay back. Next up, and I know this is the hard part, they need to stop using easements. I know, I know, how are they going to deliver service to people without the easements? Well, that’s simple. They either buy the land for a fair price from homeowners and other property owners, or they make a deal with the landowner for the right to use their property. Unfortunately, if they cannot work out a deal with any one land owner, they just lost everyone around that person, or they do their building around the land owner. I don’t think they’d like this, because what land owner is going to willingly let them build on their land while still charging them obscene rates and limiting them? It’s almost like customers would have some leverage, like a real free-market!

And that’s really the issue. Comcast, AT&T and the much smaller companies have almost zero competition, and none in local markets, because they own the lines. The only way we could ever have anything resembling a free market is, paradoxically, to make these services a utility. The companies that build and maintain the lines can still use them, and they would get subsidies to basically treat it like a road. That way, Comcast, XYZ Cable, Local Cable and Govern.NET would all be able to use these lines, with the government option likely being the least liked of them all.

Actual competition would make for a much better internet, and we wouldn’t have to keep going back and forth over how much control would be acceptable. Simply put, when the lines are open to pretty much any provider that wants to use them, we don’t have to worry about people being locked out of the market, and the companies that build the lines could concentrate more on expanding and maintaining them rather than providing the service itself. Heck, they could even charge a $5 per user fee to make sure they don’t start losing money.

I don’t want handouts here. I want companies to have to compete, like dialup did in the 1990s. Just imagine if the only dialup provider you could have used was the local telco. They’d have really messed with us even then. As it was, dialup came in around $20 a month or less, all because of fair market forces. By the way, that comes out to about $33 today.  56k is slow by today’s standards, but there wasn’t much better.

It’d be nice to see things work the way they’re supposed to without people claiming “it’s the free market” when it’s clearly not.

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