Politics The Comcast Debate
posted by October 24 at 14:17 PMon
If you’re as obsessed with the Comcast vs. file sharing story as I am, there’s some good coverage on ars technica.
The last paragraph gets to the heart of the debate:
The libertarians argue that the market is the ultimate arbiter, and if Comcast is trying to stall the technology of the future, they will fail as their users flee to new ISPs.
The liberals argue that the Internet is a public utility and must ensure equity. That is: Wal-Mart.com should not get better service than MomandPop.com to deliver its content to end users, just because they pay for and use more bandwidth. (The analogy I like to use is to water service. Just because a rich person can afford to use more water than me, doesn’t mean their water should rush out of the faucet faster.)
Of course, the other rejoinder to the Ayn Rand crew is the point that ars technica makes (customers don’t necessarily have the option to flee Comcast):
In a perfect free market, customers would be free to pack up in leave Comcast for greener and more open broadband pastures, but the competitive landscape in the US doesn’t always provide that kind of choice. More than a few Comcast customers are faced with the choice of Comcast or dial-up, leaving them with the Hobson’s choice of hoping their data packets can evade Comcast’s traffic shaping police or not having broadband service at all.
This is compelling. Especially here in Seattle. Millennium? Qwest? Speakeasy? I guess.
However, Just because Comcast has a sorta monopoly doesn’t mean the Libertarian’s logic is inherently flawed. It just means municipalities shouldn’t be granting monopolies for cable service.