Left this on Doc's weblog.

The key phrase is "a government-managed regulatory habitat".

Maybe what is needed is more legislation, not less. And not controls over what the Telcos and cable companies do with net neutrality but controls to force them to open up their monopoly to competing 3rd parties. eg

- Force them to sell wholesale bandwidth to 3rd party ISPs - Force them to sell space in their switching centres to 3rd party ISPs to unbundle the local loop.

When direct competitors are selling net neutral broadband, how will the Telcos be able to offer hobbled broadband?

The problem here is a common one to all utilities that have a monopoly hold over a single connection on the last mile. Phones, electricity, gas, water, sewage, cable TV, etc. The government has to control this for the common good. But the government can do this by granting a monopoly with controls or by creating an artificial market with competition. If they do the second, then they have to fine tune it to reflect changes in technology and possibilities. If they don't, it just falls back into the first approach. So we have the absurd situation of AT&T being broken up into the Baby Bells only for them to then merge back into a new "AT&T".

Before calling for Net Neutrality legislation take a long hard look at the UK experience and what the UK has done with BT. It's not perfect, but it almost works. BT had a similar government managed monopoly to the US Telcos. They've been forced to sell wholesale broadband and LLU. Now we have a genuinely competitive market that is forcing up broadband functionality and forcing down broadband cost.

And finally, the Cable companies have had it easy for too long. It's now time to treat them the same as Telcos. They got lots of tax credits for laying cable. It's now time to treat that cable as an unfortunate monopoly over a last mile and force them to open it up to 3rd parties.

He replied with some agreement and an argument that basically said "It's different in America." At whihc point too much coffee led me to this.

> Also impossible. The telcos, like the copyright giants, have > successfully positioned their holdings as "simple property". They > built the infrastructure. It's their property. Why shoud government > come in and tell them how they can and cannot make money with that > property? That's anti-business, anti-market, etc. Won't fly.

I know you know this. And I know it is different in the USA and maybe impossible.

But "anti-business, anti-market" is doublespeak. There is no market when the last mile is controlled in a government-managed regulatory habitat unless the government also creates an artificial market. The government has created a regulated monopoly. Now it needs to create a regulated market.

Looking from the outside at the USA it feels like we see this constantly. Endless bleating about pro-business, pro-market, pro-capitalist, anti-socialist, freedom of this that and the other, when reality is a very highly regulated, very highly government controlled environment where the government is for sale to the highest bidder (sorry, lobbier). If it wasn't for the last bit about everybody working for their shareholders (government included) it would be socialism. It's not capitalism. There isn't really a word for it. Unless it's Pigopolism. ;-)

Completely free. Just as long as you stay between the white lines on the freeway. And if you have enough money you can tell the government where to put the white lines.

Sorry. I seem to have gone off on one there...

Seems my Anti-US sentiments are getting the better of me again :) It also seems that I keep on having these conversations where I point out an alternative and the other side is unwilling to even consider it because "That's just the way it is". Now I'm not specifically accusing Doc here of closed minded thinking but something much more general. I do think a lot of people and in particular USians on the web seem to be unable to see past the status quo and to think that there might be an alternative. It doesn't have to be this way. It really doesn't. The existing way of things may have huge momentum but it can and does change.

Whatever. As a Brit I really should stop bothering with US Net Neutrality issues. If the typical US broadband customer gets screwed by their monopoly Telco ISP will it actually affect me at all, at all? Won't it just mean that the centre of innovation will move a bit more out of the USA?

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[ 07-May-06 8:29am ] [ ]