Thursday, December 23, 2010

Railroads and the Internet

Susan Crawford, who blogs brilliantly about communications technology and law, today quotes J.P. Morgan brilliantly: "The American public seems to be unwilling to admit . . . that it has a choice between regulated legal agreements and unregulated extralegal agreements.  We should have cast away more than 50 years ago the impossible doctrine of protection of the public by railway competition." Amen. All the blathering about the government interfering in private enterprise by passing neutrality rules misses the fact that there is virtually no competition in Internet services in the US. "Subscribers to high-speed Internet access are choosing their local cable monopoly 90% of the time these days," Crawford continues. "Where Comcast is doing business, Comcast is or soon will be consumers’ only choice for high-speed Internet access." 

An unregulated monopoly will inevitably raise prices and limit services to increase profits. We have seen it before, but the flamethrowers on the right such as Michelle Malkin see any regulation of these Internet monopolists as "bureaucrats … increasing their control over your lives exponentially." Of course, I imagine  Malkin would also have stood shoulder to shoulder with the railroad monopolists, and the telephone and telegraph monopolists too.

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