Public Internet

The NY Times reports that the Australian Government plans to connect all of its citizens to a high speed network as part of its program to stimulate the economy.

Wonks Anonymous approves because this would put Comcast out of business but also for serious economic reasons.

Broadband is the perfect project for the government because it is a Natural Monopoly. Networks are like highways railroads or electric power systems. Their construction consumes large amounts of resources, so large that once you have one network in place it is really a waste to construct another. With the exception of some failed libertarian experiments, we have not seen parallel electronic transmission grids, superhighways or cable providers.

But if there is no parallel broadband network then consumers are at the mercy of whatever monopolist happens to build or take over their local broadband. Or they can get those ugly satellite dishes which are as expensive and have their own problems or they can apply to the local phone company for slower, equally expensive service.

For which problem there are two solutions: Government Regulation or Government Ownership.

A number of years ago our elected representatives were assured that there was no need to regulate communications. These assurances and generous aid to the political process by communications companies essentially freed broadband providers from regulation.

Which gave us a spotty communications network - since service to rural areas is not as lucrative as our friendly monopolists would like - that has been administered with all the tact and efficiency of a Soviet Department store.

Wonks Anonymous, whose local government recently sold him to Comcast for god knows what consideration, can testify here that the transfer left him paying more for poorer quality service.

So we need to stimulate the economy and many of us could probably use a better internet connection. Maybe it's time for national broadband.


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