Yet I remain optimistic. But first, let me vent a little.
So-called "broadband" users are still paying the same price for the same speeds as a decade ago, while the costs of actually moving the bits have fallen by more than a thousand-fold. Koreans consider our "broadband" a joke. And our wireless situation is no better. Every new auction is dominated by the same frequency hoarders, so we still pay $100 or more a month for what's essentially narrow-band wireless service. And nothing has been added to the unlicensed 802.11 spectrum, nor is it likely to be.
With the Bells facing a Congress which has other, more pressing business, and little appetite for more subsidies, it's getting what it wants from the states, where officials are incredibly ignorant. No one seems to understand that the AT&T push into "cable" is just an excuse not to liberate any bandwidth for true broadband Internet service. Everything gets defined as a "service," with an added monthly fee whether you use it or not, and nothing gets better, as it should under Moore's Law.
I'm facing nothing but crap from my cellular provider, Sprint. They only sell, they never service. They hid a $10/month "data" charge on my camera phone, they sold me a phone their other stores knew was a piece of crap (Motorola, you can go Chapter 7 now) and I'm paying $160/month for services I was told would cost $90/month, when their junk fees are added in. Trying to change anything in a store is impossible -- you have to go on-hold for an hour to talk with anyone. And this is the only national carrier alternative to the AT&T-Verizon duopoly -- it makes me want to spit.
Yet I remain optimistic. Here's why.
- This decade has seen enormous innovation around the bottleneck. Google Gears makes networked desktop applications competitive, even with our horrible networks. Gadgets like the iPod allow us to use the network less.
- The Bell monopoly is becoming a partisan issue. Democrats are no longer nearly as attached to it as they were, thanks to public pressure. Republicans remain wedded to it, but they're falling in power nearly everywhere, for reasons which have nothing to do with the Internet.
- Asian and European competitors are seeing increasing speeds, and some decrease in prices, with slight improvements in conditions of use. Our market's competitiveness is taking a short-term hit, but it's also showing us a way forward.
Once we have a government of the people, assuming there's no coup or Mugabe-like election theft, we can get to work breaking up these monopolies, and create real competition in the market which will unleash the bits.
I know it's hard to wait. It's hard to wait on so many things. But let this be a lesson to all of us. Don't let people like this get anywhere near power in this country, ever, ever again.
Once innovation is unleashed by a competitive Internet, I feel very optimistic about our nation's future.