Who Do You Root For? The Monopolist Or The Bureaucracy?
from the looking-past-the-rhetoric dept
There various fights over muni-WiFi from earlier this year have mostly quieted down, but that doesn’t mean plans aren’t moving forward on both sides. Andy Kessler has written up a quick opinion piece for the WSJ pointing out the core issue that seems to make this such a polarized issue: who do you support, the monopolist or the government bureaucracy? Most supporters of either side do so because they dislike the other side. So, the anti-muni-broadband crowd always points out how inefficient government bureaucracies are. The pro-muni-broadband crowd always points out how areas are underserved and overcharged by the monopoly incumbent providers. In some sense, they’re both right. Neither answer is a perfect answer, but there are good reasons to support the right for muni-broadband, while carefully watching the implementation. First, as Kessler makes clear, in many cases the muni-broadband will end up saving the government plenty of money in not having to buy expensive (monopoly priced!) lines from the telcos. Second, Kessler notes that there must be something in between government bureaucracy and incumbent monopolist: competitive businesses. However, it’s been difficult for them to get underway for a variety of reasons, including the huge upfront expense and lack of access to places to install access points (which the government does have) — not to mention the dominant position of incumbents. So, Kessler believes that muni-broadband will actually lead to competitive broadband, because once the system is installed, no city is going to want to be in charge of handling customer and technical support for such a network, and it will get passed over into private companies anyway. This makes plenty of sense, and, in fact, it’s what some of us have been suggesting for years. The government has a right of way, and can provide a network that anyone should be able to offer services off of, providing more competition in the space.