Getting control of the connectivity monopolies

Connectivity monopolies should have no more control over our computers than the electricity monopolies power them.
Mitch Ratcliffe is toying with the motto “asynchrony is slavery” and says maybe we should forge our own connections to the Internet.
Connectivity is a natural monopoly.
If you want to plug into the Internet from your home you’ve got two choices (if you’re lucky): a copper wire through the central office of your local telephone monopoly, or a coaxial cable through the headend of your local cable monopoly. Each of these is part of a national telephone or cable oligopoly. Satellite (which requires a dial-up connection for outbound traffic) is not an option for a real two-way connection to the Net.
There are good reasons why connectivity is a monopoly. Most of the cost of setting up a utility is fixed and once the pipe is laid, it’s pretty much impossible for a competitor to make the investment a second time.
Cable companies and telco’s will continue to act as only monopolies know how to act. As long as you’re buying access to the Internet from a local mono/duopoly, you’re at the mercy of what passes for strategy at their home office: creating false bandwidth scarcity, so they can charge you more for what you’re using.
This “strategy” leads to arbitrary limits on the number of bytes you can move in a month, what networks and servers you can connect to, what software and hardware you can use, and the amount of bandwidth you can use at any moment. Each of these arbitrary limits comes with additional charges, based on their estimate of its value to you and not on their costs.
Ultimately, we wind up in a world where arbitrary bandwidth limits are enforced by Federal cops, who will break down your door and nationalize your property if you circumvent your local Internet monopoly.
We know how to regulate natural monopolies.
Fortunately, we already know how to regulate natural monopolies. We’ve been doing it for a hundred years.
Connectivity is a commodity. Unless we treat it as a commodity and don’t permit the local monopolist to “add value” to the plug in the wall and the wire in the ground and the router in the central office, we’re at their mercy and at the mercy of the government agencies who control them (and vice versa).
Connectivity monopolies should be required to do business with anyone in their service area and should not be permitted to discriminate on the basis of how you use the wire or the content of your communications. They should be guaranteed a reasonable return on their capital. If their stockholders don’t like this predictable revenue stream, they are free to invest their money in a different industry. It’s a free market, after all.
We must separate connectivity from content.
If we don’t keep the connectivity monopolies out of our business, they will exercise control over us not simply to maximize our profits. Their self-interest, monitoring of our behavior, and cozy relationship with the government whence flows their profits makes them the ideal instruments of censors, intellectual property cartels, Scientologists, software monopolists, and anyone else who thinks they have a better idea than you do about what you should be doing in the privacy of your home…and in the publicity of the Internet.
The monopolies who control our access to the Internet must be made transparent to us, and our communication with the Net must be transparent to them.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *