Broadband: It's crony capitalism, not free markets that are the problem

The usually excellent Stop the Cap! has a report on the truly awful anti-broadband bill making its way through the North Carolina legislature, but they lost me when they started blaming "free markets" as the problem. Uh, no, the problem is crony capitalism, where the incumbents spread campaign donations liberally to representatives of both parties, to obtain the best laws money can buy. That's not free markets.

When Stop the Cap! indicts "free markets" as the problem, the incumbents win, because that's the line the incumbents use to confuse the issue. Most incumbent telecom providers are, in fact, utterly opposed to free markets, because they lose their de facto monopoly status in a free market.

This distinction is absolutely critical to winning the debate. Community broadband efforts are going to lose every time if the community broadband pitch is "we don't like free markets." Community broadband is all about free markets and competition, real competition, of the kind we see in open access projects like Utopia with seventeen (17) providers on the network--that's an open market, and that's what communities want and need.

The proper response to "It's important to let the free market prevail..." in a discussion about telecom is to agree. "Yes, we agree completely. We fully support free markets. We want buyers of telecom services to be able to buy from a wide variety of telecom providers, not just one or two acting as a local cartel."

The "free markets" argument is a red herring. Community broadband advocates need to vigorously applaud free markets, then point out where they don't exist.

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I agree, free markets are not the enemy. In fact, I contend that community broadband is where free markets and the democratic process intersect -

I favor a free market system where the government does not use our tax dollars to prop up or all but finance companies who otherwise could not survive in the broadband/telecommunications industry. If that company has the means to deploy the necessary broadband technology on their own and the market supports that then I am all for it and that is what I call a free market. A free market does not exist when those same companies cannot afford to deploy the broadband technologies so the government subsudizes their efforts, often called tobacco money, so they can "compete." That in no way follows free market principles.

The secret to community networks prospering where incumbents cant is to offer radical disruptive services that the incumbents would be to scared to offer!