TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Re: Information Wants to be Free

Re: Information Wants to be Free
25 Jan 2006 21:16:05 GMT

In article <>, Lisa Hancock
<> wrote:

> wrote:

> "Infrastructure" is a very vague word. There is no such regulation
> except in a very few instances.

I don't think it's vague ... From Merriam-Webster:

Function: noun
1 : the underlying foundation or basic framework (as of a system or

> It is not now nor ever has been the policy of the United States to
> "protect the good of the many over the profits for the few". This
> country always believed in free enterprise. If I invent something
> that costs me $1.00 to make but charge $1 million to sell and I have
> willing buyers, that is my right. I have a right of patent
> protection. (We do have laws against dishonest behavior and creating
> a monopoly by illegally killing off your competition, but that's not
> the issue here.)

You're confusing several issues. The first is the concept of "willing
buyers". The idea of infrastructure is that it's a fundamental
requirement, and the concept of "willing" doesn't really apply. Having
a reliable power grid is no longer an option. Nor is a functional
telephone network. And the Internet is approaching that point if it's
not there already. Our entire socio-economic system depends on the
availability of those services.

And while the Republicans and Libertarians like to wave "Free
Enterprise" as the foundation of the US, the truth is that there are
many examples of government oversight to protect us from greedy
corporations. For instance, OSHA, CPSC, FCC, the various PUC's, etc.

The truth is, Free Enterprise is not a perfect system. It can be
exploited, and will be, just as corporations have exploited the patent
system which was originally intended to provide a way for inventors to
license their work and encourage deployment, rather than be a weapon
against competitors or blackmail against successful companies.

> After 1983 the Bell System agreed to cease being a monopoly. That
> meant other carriers were freely allowed to compete and they did so
> in droves. That also meant that the sucessor Bell System--now split
> into many companies -- were allowed to go into other lines of
> business. It is critical to remember that the 1983 divesture was a
> TWO-WAY agreement.

The Bell system ceased being a national monopoly, but the baby bells
retained their regional dominance. The "competition" was a failure, as
the incumbent phone companies drove competitors out of business
through various shady practices from predatory pricing to
uncooperative responses to line orders. Maybe you have competition,
but in the metropolitan areas I've lived the only choices for
wire-line phone service are the incumbent baby-bells, which, as you
may have noticed, have consolidated almost to the pre-divestiture

> As mentioned, unless explicitly directed, "infrastructure" is not
> regulated as a result of the 1983 divesture and other court decisions.
> That's why today we have MCI, Sprint, a host of others, as well as
> VOIP providers. That's why people can and do use their cable-TV for
> their telephone and internet service. It's technically possible to
> even use power lines.

Yes, it was. Not very successfully, though. It's because the
incumbents were an infrastructure that they were required to lease
their lines to competitors for local service.

> I point out that the airlines were once regulated but no more. They
> can come and go as they wish, setting whatever fares and services they
> want. They can and do own and operate vacation destinations and
> provide fare discounts. At one time that was forbidden but not now.
> In other words, if I own a result and an airline, I could require all
> my guests to use that particular airline.

That's both good and bad, but it's also not a fair analogy. The
airlines are not the infrastucture in that case, but the airports and
air traffic control system, both of which are highly regulated and
tightly controlled by the government. A better analogy would be to say
that the airports should be private enterprise, and should be able to
dictate what airline can or can't use the facilities, based strictly
on the airline's ability to pay whatever fees the airport wants to
charge. Or maybe the airport will be owned by a specific airline, and
will only allow their own planes to use the airport ... a situation
very similar to where the Internet is headed.

In your airport analogy, the airport is the infrastructure and the
airlines the competetive entities providing a service using that

> I also point out that we've allowed competition in infrastructure for
> many years. We allowed the private automobile and jitneys to compete
> with the existing streetcar system in city streets. Generally that
> killed off the streetcar company. We built an interstate highway
> system and massive airports to compete with mainline passenger trains,
> and killed off passenger trains. (Trains were explicitly forbidden to
> fly planes or run buses to keep up, BTW.)

You're still confusing what's infrastructure and what isn't. The roads
provide the infrastructure.

> Since Verizon now has competitors, it is only fair that Verizon be
> allowed to compete as well. Comcast Cable includes content as well as
> transmission. Verizon should be able to do likewise if it so chooses.

Can and should are two different things. :-( I believe the government
made a fundamental error when it allowed Comcast to keep it's network
closed. If someone gets away with murder on a technicality, then I
guess it's OK to kill people anytime I can apply the same technicality.
Sorry, that's a bit extreme. But that's a little child's arguement,
"he did it, so I should be able to do it." I agree that it's not fair
to impose two sets of standards. But I think the wrong fix was

Also, I NEVER said Verizon and Comcast shouldn't be content providers.
What I said was that they shouldn't be allowed to PREVENT other
content providers from using their infrastructure, directly or
indirectly. Because they also control the infrastructure they have a
potentially unfair advantage. Saying that consumers have a choice
because there's cable as well as DSL/FIOS isn't appropriate. According
to that, every Internet content provider will have to build their own
private Internet to reach their customers.

> Really, per your argument, I shouldn't have a separate cable TV
> company, that should be done by the phone company, especially now.
> But that's not the policy.

No, different technology, different required infrastructure. When
cable TV was deployed there was no way to deliver over phone wire. It
required a completely new build-out of services and circuits.

> Basically, I found it very objectionable that certain companies would
> be allowed to formulate business combos any way they wanted while
> others could not. That is NOT in the public interest and historically
> proven bad.

Free Enterprise is about competition. Where it breaks down is when
consolidation or other factors contrive to eliminate competition. The
phone companies are doing their best to consolidate control of content
delivery, through mergers, regulations and legislation. It will not be
a good thing when you can only access The Phone Company's search
engine, mail services, video content, etc., at whatever rate they feel
justified in charging.

John Meissen

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