Monday, August 24, 2009

From the bastion of classical conservativism comes....

...a call for new and improved regulation of the telecoms.  Or as he calls it, a new National Data Policy, not just voice.
Sarcasm aside (even the delicious irony that it was penned by a hedge fund manager), the guy makes some incredibly strong points, not the least of which is that the whole darn system needs to basically be Open Source technology, and the government's role should be to protect the bandwidth from those that seek to claim it as their own.
Even better, the article takes note that these policies don't just relate to our Cell providers, but to our cable tv and other digital media content providers.  While overstating the value of a la carte pricing to consumers, he does make a viable argument that competition in this realm will provide de facto Net Neutrality. 
On the other hand, ending municipal exclusivity for cable TV might enhance competition, but it also creates one giant problem.  Who in the hell wants to lay all the new infrastructure and make all those improvements if they don't have a guarantee that they will even be in business after they finish.  Or to put it more succinctly, why should a company that provided no improvements get to profit off the company that did.  We know where this is leading, don't we?  The feds will have to subsidize the cost of replacing the aging digital infrastructure so that there can be competition on the services side. I wonder if they will be any better at it than they are at upgrading our traditional infrastructure.
The author does correctly point out that what all media companies want is the ability to own the delivery system, or The Pipe as it is known.  Lets take two examples:
AT&T text messaging:  They own their network, so by charging $.20 a message, a galactically rediculous price per byte, they actually sweeten the pot by offering only a slightly less absurd price of $5.00 for 200.  You are getting robbed blind under the former, and only ripped off under the latter.  But what choice do you have, right?  They own the method of sending the message.  The price is arbitrary with no cost basis to even consider.  It's AT&T's network, unlike:
Sending an email via Insight Broadband:  Insight is my internet provider.  I pay for the ability to access the WWW via their technology.  THEY DO NOT OWN THE PIPE.  The internet itself is free.  The only cost is admission.  You know why there is no cost to send a single email?  Because I don't need Insight in order to send it.  I can change to any number of providers that can hook me up to the same WWW that Insight gives me access to.  The same network carries every email sent from all over the world.  At least for now, no one controls the flow of information on the internet.
I like the author's overall point that a paradigm shift is or has occurred in how we need to regulate these public utilities (which is what they really are). Maybe after Obama is done reinvinting health care, he can tackle AT&T ripping me off month after month.

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