The Media and Democracy Coalition has released a short paper detailing the many ways in which cable and phone companies have failed America. These companies use their market power to gouge residents and businesses, putting a drag on our economy. Meanwhile, the biggest ones are massively profitable and refuse to invest in the networks necessary to keep America competitive with peer nations.
We recently wrote about how privately owned networks tend to consolidate and reduce competition rather than reducing prices. The lesson is as clear as it has always been throughout human history: allowing a select few to control essential infrastructure is a recipe for economic calamity.
From the paper:
It’s good for our economy when companies make money and hire workers. But while small businesses continue to struggle in this economy, the cable and phone companies achieved extremely healthy profit margins. If the Great Recession didn’t stop these ISPs from making big profits, how could they be hurt by sensible consumer protections to keep the net operating just like it always has?
Well, seeing as how seat belts destroyed the automobile industry... and then air bags also destroyed the automobile industry... and CAFE standards destroyed the automobile industry.... wait -- all of these predictions were false. Perhaps we should not base important policy decisions upon the dire predictions of self-interested parties who are obligated to put self-interest ahead of the public interest.
I was saddened to see that the paper suggest "we need" the private companies to build these networks. Point of fact, not only do we not "need" them to do it, we "need" to wake up to the fact that even when they do the best they can, it is second best to networks built by those who put the public interest first. Compare the networks of communities like Salisbury, NC; Monticello, MN; Lafayette, LA; and Chattanooga, TN, to the joke AT&T calls U-Verse and the stronger offers of FiOS. The private sector cannot be trusted to build the infrastructure we need.
Addendum: I should note that while infrastructure must be managed in the public interest, I do believe the private sector should have a strong role as service providers operating on top of an open access platform. It is only by managing the fiber network in the public interest that independent service providers can compete on a level platform, creating the benefits of a truly competitive market.