Sunday, September 24, 2006

Take Me Home, Internet Roads

Matrix%20System%20Failure-720593So in West Virgina, broadband access has fallen behind the rest of the country:
Because of the state's sparse population and rugged terrain, most high-speed Internet providers have not expanded their service to large portions of the state...

Although West Virginia lags behind the rest of the nation, the lack of broadband deployment is not confined to the Mountain State, said Michael J. Copps, commissioner with the Federal Communications Commission.

"The problem is that we do not have a strategy to get the broadband job done," he said. "We don't have a way to bring together the people in this room."

The United States does not compare well with other developed nations in terms of broadband accessibility, Copps said. The U.S. is ranked 16th in one survey and 21st in another.

"As far as I can tell, we're the only country on the face of God's green earth that doesn't have a broadband strategy," he said.

Some of the countries that rank higher in those surveys, such as Canada, have more territory and less population density than the U.S., he said.
(Copps, you may recall, was the troublemaker who launched himself on a whistlestop tour of the country back in 2003 to conduct the hearings Colin Powell's kid wouldn't, in order to sound the alarm on the impending trust-fest that would have been unleashed had the FCC granted permission for a single entity to own more than 35% of a media market).

And how does a place like Canada accomplish what we, with all our chest-pounding about the free market, can't seem to? Maybe this?

Imagine a world where internet access is thought of as a public good, a service so indispensible that it is considered, and administrated, on a par with telephone service? Imagine a world where internet is considered a public utility, where your access is protected and enabled by a network of government and non-profit agencies, or if provided by private business, is regulated and overseen by a public watchdog to ensure against monopolies, price-gouging, and unacceptable service quality!

But, no. Here in the land of the Big Grab, even the idea of a local municipality being able to provide such a crucial service is considered an outrageous trespass on the freedom of giant corporations to establish and maintain their hegemonies, so much so that even liberal politicans cave the moment Verizon starts flashing its cash.

No. Instead, we have what is not jokingly referred to as "faith in the free market and private enterprise". In America every faceless commercial monolith is regarded as the creation of a plucky little guy who worked 3 jobs to build a dream, a Horace Greeley, a mythical self-made man, an entreprenuer to whom we, as Americans, owe all we are and all we ever will be. Let us not to the monopolization of true empires admit impediment! Because one day it could be me!

And besides, it's common knowledge that if we just let that wild maverick out there dream his dream, and work his magic, we'll all be flying around in hovercraft and experiencing giant holographic adventures in our own homes someday, and the price of everything, freed at last from the hobbling regulation of government, will plummet. Like cable television! Remember cable? How many cable providers do you have access to now? What do you pay for it, compared to pre-deregulation days?

How did all that free market jive work out for you?

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