FCC Chairman: America needs more broadband competition


My suspicion is that, as much as it should, this will not result in cable Internet providers being classified as common carriers and be required to sell bandwidth to external/third party ISP’s at wholesale prices equivalent to what they charge their internal ISP. (Likewise for phone service delivered across cable TV facilities.)


Hmm, maybe if local governments could run their own high-speed lines to their communities?


It is a tale
Told by a dingo, full of sound and fury
Signifying nothing.


You don’t say.

The tyranny of mainstream b-school Randian bubble-think has driven guys like Wheeler into these strange paradoxes of trying to reconcile the economic inevitability of some natural monopolies with their ideological frame that all monopolies are bad because Gummit.

Really, the only restraint on monopolies, natural or otherwise, is democratic action. We’re getting to the point where people can’t apply isms to economic ideas with a straight face any more. Capital is not an ism, it’s what happens between the shifting bricks of social institutions. Applying a suffix to either one of capital or social is to give oneself over to long-dead fanaticism.


It’s not gonna happen. Wired (cable/phone) is the only way to go for dense areas, and the infrastructure cost is too great to allow new players in a mature market.

Plus, the corporate model we’ve sen applied to the problem in the past really likes to consolidate, so even if there’s competition at one time, it will eventually eat itself.


How fascinating. Maybe next he will tell us what his favorite salad is.


I don’t get this at all. The only actor who has ever broken a monopoly is government. It’s true, they also use government to squash competition, but if “natural monopoly” is a real thing, would a hands-off government make any difference at all? So wouldn’t a libertarian hold that monopoly is simply the result of successful competition?

[fyi, “natural” monopoly is the kind of monopoly where competition isn’t efficient or desirable: roads, power, sanitation, network protocol, etc. it’s not some kind of justification of unregulated consolidation]

A libertarian might hold this, but not one which had any experience in economic ideas, especially the microeconomics used in market analysis. At least, not without occasional bits of brains squirting out their ears. The problem with unregulated monopolies is that any competition in the market will lower prices, raise production, and drop profit down to a point below where economic resources can be sucked out of the economy as rents to the monopoly owner. Where competition exists, monopolies can’t compete except in the short term to drive the competition out through dumping, coercion, bribes, kickbacks, etc. It’s not just a definitional problem: unregulated monopolies are badly matched to to their markets. Someone worried about resource depletion (as some libertarians are) might justify monopoly as a way for the owner-class to starve the population back to sustainability as well as fund (through rents) the kind of security theater necessary to keep the population from successfully revolting. I don’t think that’s been put forward as an explicit proposal by mainstream libertarians like the Kochs, but it seems to be the direction some of the collapse-bothers are going.

It’s certainly the underlying scenario of some dystopic fantasies I’ve seen. Snowpiercer is an excellent example.

Without going quite that far, most libertarians slip over to a scapegoating compromise: it’s government which makes monopoly possible. For capital-intensive natural monopolies (utilities, roads, transit) they’re not entirely wrong. It’s just enough right to allow them to conflate natural monopolies with criminal monopolies. That’s the wiggleroom they need to make political choices (and talk a lot of nonsense) outside of any responsibility for consequences.

Given the subversion and anti-democratic violence needed to dismantle democratic-republican institutions, that wiggleroom will always be there, just as it was for communists who could always point to the fact that full communism was never really given a chance to work on a large scale. So the idea of laissez-faire will never go away precisely because it is incompatible with a real world which becomes more and more democratic-republican.


Says who? My ISP is wireless, locally-owned, and delivers 3.5X/20X (D/U) faster service than any available DSL, and far cheaper. Like “Is that a typo?” cheaper. Cable might be competitive — I doubt it, but I wouldn’t really know, since I’m never putting a dime into any cable company’s coffers again.

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We live in a free-market country. If more competition were really something people wanted, the market would provide it.

Let’s all move to Chattanooga.

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Then they wouldn’t be libertarians, would they?

Most of my knowledge is telco-based, having worked there long ago. I’m pretty sure most of the capital cost is what they call the “last mile” - the wires from the central office to the home. I’m even more sure that would be true if they started from scratch, today.

The Bell answer was to have expensive long distance rates subsidize the unprofitable but necessary parts of the business. You can do that in a monopoly. It’s more difficult when the local companies split off from ATT, and everybody expected the “Baby Bells” to be bankrupt in a hurry. They were wrong.

Today, less capital-intensive business like wireless subsidizes that last mile, and whatever cables still need installing. But there’s no reason tax dollars couldn’t provide the exact same subsidy. If City Hall installed the drop wires for phone and cable, the rest of the business could be wide-open for competition. One would expect Comcast to jump at the opportunity - but Comcast doesn’t want competition one bit.


You are adorable!


Presumably the way he will get us more competition is by deregulating his long term employers.


Perhaps what we need is an end to states, counties, and cities granting exclusive rights to sell internet service.

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For how many concurrent users?

Whatever fancy tricks you use, the Nyquist limit and the scarcity of radio spectrum are still things.

We’re getting to the point where people can’t apply isms to economic ideas with a straight face any more.

I think you wildly underestimate people’s capacity for dishonesty.

For whatever that means.

Business requires some economic training and the kind of market manipulation the Ur-libertarian billionaires have to do to become billionaires (or make that trip between third base and home) proves that they understand the way perfect markets, oligarchies, and monopolies work. Psychologically, the existence of natural monopolies under government regulation gives them license to enrich themselves at the expense of perfect markets in the interest of the ultimate ideological goal: killing the State. …And incidentally, democratic-republican sovereignty, the safety net, etc. It’s a kind of Bolshevism for the rich, with wealth, media control and corruption substituting for ignorant masses of people and violence. Were Bolshevists ideologically pure? Was Stalin a good communist? Why bother with purity when the ultimate goal is the liberation of mankind under an ordered system of right-thinkers?

Should we take them at their word that they are libertarians? Should we assume a blatant conspiracy to play naive libertarians off the rest of the world? I prefer to take them at their word and their deeds and just assume that the massive contradictions are what they are: symptoms of mental compartmentalization and a perverse stimulus for fanatical douchebaggery.

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