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When bandwidth is free

If you haven't heard this already it bears repeating. (Picture from the University of Rochester.

Erie Canal 1829, from the University of Rochester
If you haven't heard this already it bears repeating. (Picture from the University of Rochester.)

Internet bandwidth is essential infrastructure.

Like freeway lanes, like sea and airports, the quality and price of your Internet bandwidth determines how much it costs to do intellectual business with you.

Open source and open spectrum are incompatible with monopoly gatekeepers. They create unnecessary economic friction. They make American intellectual goods increasingly non-competitive at a time they must become more competitive.

For a decade America has been stuck in what is increasingly the Internet slow lane.

Government-granted monopolies have allowed the Bellheads and cable head-ends to violate Moore's Law, taking all improvements for themselves and hiking the price of bits to you.

The response to that by the market has been software, programs like LibTorrent, and applications using it like Miro. My January piece on the two was the 7th most popular blog post here for 2008.

In retrospect my praise was premature. The monopolists had another card up their sleeve, one they have now played. Bit caps.

By strictly limiting the number of bits you can transfer on your "unlimited" plans, the monopolists have made it plain to all that their agenda is to limit economic growth and demand rents from all 21st century economic activity.

OPEC has nothing on AT&T, Verizon and Comcast.

What was, at the start of this decade, a way to eliminate economic gatekeepers in intellectual activity has become, today, the equivalent of an early 19th century turnpike or canal monopoly.

These concessions, and later concessions given railroad companies, were necessary in order to construct what was deemed essential infrastructure.

Without government support such projects as the Erie Canal and the Transcontinental Railroad would not have been built when they were.

The Internet must not be subject to such economics. It costs less-and-less to move bits about, in fact, every year, as transceivers and radios improve. Those improvements are being denied the public, and the economy.

Monopolists have, so far, convinced people in both parties that they are essential to the maintenance of the Internet. They are not. The Internet was a network-of-networks from the beginning, and must become one again.

Let 2009 begin the task of breaking this monopoly, of freeing the bits, and of getting economic growth going again.