Should we mandate open source Internet access?

Internet access is becoming an unregulated, government-mandated duopoly.
Written by Dana Blankenhorn, Inactive
While most U.S. technology markets are gaining the benefits of open source, one market has become closed to competition.

Internet access.

Internet access is becoming an unregulated, government-mandated duopoly. Increasingly, if you want "real" service (over 64 Kbps) you have only two choices, your local Bell company or your local cable operator.

It's a false choice. Worse, according to Bruce Kushnick's new ebook, $200 Billion Broadband Scandal, it's a rip-off which you paid for, with your money, that you earned.

I was recently permitted to join a closed mailing list celebrating the upcoming arrival of Bruce's book, filled with heavy-hitters, respected names, honored seers of the telecomm landscape. What they are saying, in effect, is we could get much better, fairer, cheaper, faster access to the Internet if the Bell stranglehold on policy were broken -- even at the risk of their bankruptcy.

Moore's Law is driving down the cost of last-mile Internet access, yet the Bells continue to squeeze massive profits, through government regulation, off unfulfilled promises, and now they want to extort money from content providers, claiming that if that is given they will finally deliver.

Too late.

For me, however, the scope of the scandal can be summed up in a factoid:

Already, just in the last few years, we've fallen to 19th in broadband penetration. We're about to be passed by Slovenia, for God's sakes! Slovenia! Slovenia was, in the 1990s, part of Yugoslavia, a country which destroyed itself in civil war. Now Slovenia is passing us in the access its citizens have to the Essential Resource of our Time.

The Internet is not a right, but it is becoming a necessity, like roads, water, and electricity. Yet unlike those goods, there's plenty of capital out there to improve Internet access, if we simply replaced the current proprietary structure of the access market with an open source structure.

Bells should be required to wholesale their capacity again. Phone poles should be made available to WISPs. Anti-trust laws should be strictly enforced. More opportunity for the little guys may mean less for the big guys, but that's how open source grows markets.

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