Blame Your Lousy Internet on Poles
Susan Crawford

Even if these regulations are fixed — which would be relatively fantastic — it’s still anti-competitive that critical infrastructure is owned by for-profit companies. I don’t mean the poles, now, I mean the wires. But also the poles.

The government built the roads, and people are largely better off because of it: can you imagine having to pay “rent” for the right to drive on your local roads for now and for all eternity? Even if the transaction difficulties were solved (i.e. if technology allowed the private road-builders to charge tolls automatically instead of putting tollbooths everywhere), it would mean that a company can keep charging you the same price forever — or even to raise rates, because there is little to stop a monopoly, even though their costs go down over time.

Luckily we don’t do that for roads and sewers, but somehow we still do it for wires and poles. Regulations to allow big companies to add their own proprietary wires is good, but as long as all the wires are privately owned, there’s a good chance that only the biggest and richest companies will ever enter the market. So maybe it won’t be a monopoly, it’ll be a duopoly or even a menáge-á-tropoly, but the number of competitors will be very limited and that will probably mean high prices.

There should be a set of government-owned wires that all the companies can share, paying the same rates. This would allow more competitors, and any profits from line rentals will go into government coffers and ultimately pay for public services. Alternately, the government itself could be an ISP and run the operation at cost. Or, internet could be a free (tax-supported) public service. Instead what happens in America? Laws prohibiting municipalities providing internet service.

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