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Duopoly Blues

A few weeks ago, Senator Ted Stevens enlightened us with the observation that “the internet is not a big truck.” Today, Timothy B. Lee of the Show Me institute lets us know what it is: a railroad!

You see, if we try to guarantee net neutrality via regulation, the regulatory body will just get captured, like the old ICC:

A regulated industry has a far larger stake in regulatory decisions than any other group in society. As a result, regulated companies spend lavishly on lobbyists and lawyers and, over time, turn the regulatory process to their advantage. . . . Economists have dubbed this process “regulatory capture[.]”

Mr. Lee concedes that “incumbent broadband providers do have some limited monopoly powers,” but then states

Internet service provider that denies customers access to content risks a serious consumer revolt. Unlike a one-railroad Western town, most broadband customers can choose between cable and D.S.L., and a growing number have access to wireless options as well.

Well, I think this article gives us some sense of why that’s a bit pollyannish. . . . as do incumbents’ vigorous efforts to undermine municipalities’ attempts to get wireless to under (or un)served neighborhoods. But since this is a blog, let me indulge in a little anecdote.

A few weeks ago, I exercised my much-vaunted consumer choice. I checked on Verizon to see if I could get DSL in my apartment, and when I found out I could, I disconnected my (more expensive) cable internet connection. This involved two long calls to Comcast, the first of which ended fruitlessly when they informed me their computers were down. After calling again, I trooped down to their office and returned the relevant equipment. (This whole disconnection process took about 2 hours). Then, I took about an hour to get signed on with Verizon on July 17, and was promised service in a few days.

It’s not come yet. And here’s an email message from July 24:

We’re eager to deliver the power of high-speed Internet access to you, but we must first conduct additional testing of your line to ensure DSL can be provided. We will continue to provide you with updates on the progress of your order via e-mail, so you’ll want to check it regularly.

As I have been. I’m still waiting. Mr. Lee, could you let me know of the other options available in the Journal Square neighborhood of Jersey City? I tried the cybercafe last night, but the computer crashed!