Lost Remote, a great resource for video and broadcast-related news, writes about Comcast’s move into the online video space – Comcast to build web video portal.
The original story is from the Wall Street Journal, which means it’s not available to those of us who don’t subscribe. But this is the key quote for me:
… writes WSJ’s Peter Grant. “They raise the prospect of two cable companies competing against each other for viewers, one providing traditional TV and the other offering videos to computers. Indeed, some cable operators have expressed concern about Comcast’s plans, noting that cable operators currently work on ventures together and don’t compete with one another.”
That seems to really be part of the problem. Cable operators operate in what amounts to a competition-less vacuum. I’m think of the word “collusion.” And it’s been that way ever since the mid-70s when Cable began rolling out and locking up monopoly licensing deals with local municipalities.
As Eric Frenchman wrote earlier this week, the solution to “Net neutrality” is to break the stranglehold on the “last mile” of Internet access, the point where the Internet enters your home.
What this should be about is the competition for the last mile to your household. That’s what the RBOCs (Regional Bell Operating Companies) promised us a long time ago per the Telecommunications Act of 1996. The first paragraph on that link says it all: “The goal of this new law is to let anyone enter any communications business — to let any communications business compete in any market against any other.”
Ten years later, this is still not true. I live 35 minutes in rural NJ from the former HQ of the Old and Better AT&T’s and Verizon’s current HQ in Basking Ridge NJ and I still have no real competition for local. I can either choose Comcast (bad service and constantly changing fees) and Embarq the local phone company formerly known as Sprint. That’s it. What we have now is nobody trying to enter local because the RBOCs and Cable companies protect their ownership of the last mile to the house.
What does this have to do with Net Neutrality? Everything. Since the duopoly of cable/RBOCs control the last mile we are held hostage to whatever rates they want to choose for access. Since they can’t or won’t squeeze consumers anymore they are going after the big content providers. The problem is that since they wiped out real competition, we have no upgrades to our access and they can charge whatever they want, all the time protecting their turf.
What is even worse is that some of us are limited by pitiful rural access. For the past five years, I have lived in an area where Cable does not reach, and BellSouth has not upgraded the telephone service to allow for DSL. The only way I could get high-speed access is by satellite, which is ridiculously expensive for the limitations on uploads and the delay that prevents online real-time activities (like gaming).
Here’s hoping the cable companies begin to get a taste of real competition, as the result can only be an improvement.