It's a lie that makes my blood boil every time I read it. (This cartoon, by Thomas Nast, is over 110 years old.)
The lie is that the U.S. telecommunications market is competitive, even hyper-competitive.
That lie was told again this week, by the Walt Disney Internet Group, when it announced its MVNO, a re-sale agreement with Sprint, would be closing. (The idiot in charge was engaging in some serious ass-covering.)
This followed similar announcements by Amp'D Mobile and by ESPN, another Disney unit. The only successful MVNO in the U.S. is Virgin Mobile, which is trying to go public in order to pay down its bills.
The plain fact is that the U.S. communications market, wired and wireless, phone, cable and Internet, is an oligopoly with very few participants, and that U.S. consumers have either few or no choices.
Look at your own situation. How many choices do you have for phone service? Maybe two. How about TV service? Maybe two. How about wireless service? Maybe as many as four, but if you look at maps showing where service is strong and weak, chances are fewer.
This is what our forefathers, over 100 years ago, would call a Trust. It's a shared monopoly in which the seller can charge what it wants, under any conditions it wants, paying as little attention to customer needs as it wants, and customers have no choice.
What are the most hated industries in the country today? Phone. Cable. Internet. Where is the worst customer service? And what is the only "competitive" offering being made in any of those industries? That's right, the "triple play," an attempt to get you to buy all these things from one company, to make you completely dependent for all these services on one firm.
Why aren't you reading about this in your newspaper, or magazine, or on TV? All those industries have become dependent on the advertising of the trusts. Count the number of ads they're running -- it's all they spend money on. Not technology, not customer service -- only advertising.
This has been a deliberate government policy, carried out systematically since 2001, which enabled the re-creation of the Bell System, which enabled the gaming of wireless auctions, in which the industry engaged in outright theft, and which forced all alternative service providers off the "owned" networks of the Trust members -- owned in the sense that their owners seized what the ratepayers had been forced by previous governments to pay for and build.
In fact, do you want to know what all these members of the so-called MVNO industry have in common? The only company offering to re-sell capacity to anyone was Sprint, and their customer service is the sorriest of the whole lot. You can't make money when only one company is able or willing to sell you what you need.
Anyone who tells you the U.S. communications market is competitive is a liar. Check out where they work. They're probably either a paid shill for the monopoly, or they're trying to sell you something, like AT&T stock.
One of the first tasks of the next Administration must be to take this Trust apart, for the benefit of our technology industries, of our technology consumers, and of technology stock values. We are losing markets due to this. There is no U.S. wireless industry to speak of -- T-Mobile is German, Verizon is half-British, and the industry is generally moribund. When was the last time you read the words "Internet" and "faster" in the same news story? Why are telephony and cable still separate worlds, when everyone knows that they're just digital services?
Moore's Law is ready to give you what you need, where you need it, for lower-and-lower prices over time. But Moore's Law is in chains. And the Bush Administration chained it.