The Net as Commons? (continued)

Previously I wrote about the uniqueness of Google. Just as anybody seeking or sharing information on the Internet, locating resources requires a certain amount of "rights of transit". However, the consideration that Google and other high-band width providers (and consumers?) are freeloading is picking up steam apparently.

According to The Nation: 

Verizon, Comcast, Bell South and other communications giants are developing strategies that would track and store information on our every move in cyberspace in a vast data-collection and marketing system, the scope of which could rival the National Security Agency. According to white papers now being circulated in the cable, telephone and telecommunications industries, those with the deepest pockets–corporations, special-interest groups and major advertisers–would get preferred treatment. Content from these providers would have first priority on our computer and television screens, while information seen as undesirable, such as peer-to-peer communications, could be relegated to a slow lane or simply shut out.

Let’s ponder this for a moment. The providers need to make a profit, right? Well, shouldn’t they, as "owners" of the bandwidth be allowed to sell and prioritize (likely through QoS) like Enron wanted to do before it went bust? Or is bandwidth, something becoming as essential as electricity, something to be regulated?

Some might consider the US market as an example of unregulated Internet connectivity. Those that do, probably see the US superhighway as something of success too. This is flat wrong and the reality should serve as a counter to the backbone Telcos that think otherwise. The "middle men" in the Internet are looking to make some additional money. If they are allowed to proceed, the costs of access, already ridiculously high for low quality and low speed service will likely go up. America lives in a fantasy of having a great and high-speed computer network, just like we think we have a great cellular service (some people do at least). A good read on this is Bleha’s May/June 2005 Foreign Affairs article, Down to the Wire. A rebuttal and response in a latter issue is also interesting, if not for the redirection of factors and failure to address the core issue of government involvement. I learned our local phone company was already training its people on the fiber optic wire is about run to home when they pulled the plug because they were getting bought out. That was at least 6 years ago and still no fiber. No incentive. Public-private partnerships are required and have been required for major innovation. Meanwhile, we pay handsomely for services we think are the best.

In an eBook, $200 Billion Broadband Scandal, Bruce Kushnick reinforces the point Bleha makes. The ”the largest fraud case in American history", according to Kushnick, has limited our connectivity and are seeking to limit it more. Is the Internet something of a commons to be protected? Other countries think so.

We, as American consumers, are made to feel proud and privileged to have 3mb service to the house, in which we use our 54mb 802.11g wireless networks. Great, I can send a print job to my printer over the wireless really fast, but can I get the latest 4.5mb PowerPoint by Chet Richards without a delay?


Dan Mitchell reviewed the eBook in the New York Times:

Enron? WorldCom? No. It’s much, much larger than either of those, though the use of the word ”fraud” in this case is more a literary device than a legal definition. The book is ”The $200 Billion Broadband Scandal” ( The author is Bruce Kushnick, a longtime irritant to the telecommunications industry.

His targets are the Baby Bells, which he contends owe every American household about $2,000 because they reneged on their collective promise to deploy ultra-high-speed broadband Internet access via optical fiber to millions of homes.

By now, according to Mr. Kushnick, 86 million homes should be wired at 45 Mbps — at least 15 times as fast as the best commonly available D.S.L. service. The count of homes wired at that speed so far is zero.

The phone companies made this promise as Congress was getting ready to pass the 1996 Telecommunications Reform Act, he points out. In return, they received benefits — including tax breaks and changes in state laws lifting limits on their profits — amounting to more than $200 billion, Mr. Kushnick writes. But instead of building the infrastructure, they spent money on more immediately profitable services like plain old copper-wire D.S.L. and hoary long-distance networks, according to the 406-page e-book.

”It’s like ordering a Ferrari and getting a bicycle,” Mr. Kushnick writes in his introduction.

Meanwhile, countries like South Korea and Japan were building out their infrastructure and making 100 Mbps service their national standard.

And here at home, ”this ‘bait and switch’ caused a ripple effect,” writes Steve Stroh, a research analyst, in a blog at

”While one can argue about the dimensions of that ripple effect,” he writes, ”some effects are obvious — the cable companies only had to offer a modest speed increase above D.S.L. to be competitive. It seems reasonable to think that cable-modem speeds would be much higher in trying to compete with fiber, or the prices much lower.”


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