And the market, while we’re at it

Dana Blankenhorn: Dump the Silo Model. His gist (quoted in the long because by shortening it I risk leaving out his full thrust and the importance of it.

  Bob Frankston says we should all own our own infrastructure. Bob Cringely calls for people to own their own last mile.

  I agree, but I’m into simplicity. I say, free the bits…

  Getting from here to there means blowing up a century of laws designed both to control content and to collect taxes, laws based on an assumption of scarcity. Regulators don’t want to free the telecomm bits because they’re on the take, in the form of “stealth” taxes (look at your own bill sometime). The same is true for cable.

  But the companies that sell these bits are also in on the scam. They make more money by defining bits as “services” and by controlling what those bits do, than they would otherwise. That’s because, by selling services, they’re able to act as monopolists, as gatekeepers, controlling both the customers and the content. If they were selling bits they would have to compete, and all their power would be gone.

  This dance of definition, taxation and regulation made sense 40 years ago, when technology was analog, spectrum was scarce, and networking was complex. But today anyone can be a network manager for the price of a $100 router.

  So you should have the power over bits, no one else. You, the consumer, and you, the producer of content defined by bits, should have the power to choose how you send them and choose how you get them, without constraint. When you want to send bits or receive bits, you have the right to a competitive market. And you have the right to define what those bits mean.

  The market, and the government, exist to serve you, not monopolists. You have the power to make this happen, but only if you seize that power, only if you demand that power, only if you organize with a single, simple demand:

  Free the Bits.

Good place to start. The key, in making the political as well as the business arguments, is to show how regarding the bits as free (as in freedom, not as in beer, by the way) will be good for the larger economy, including the carriers who will be asked (or told) to leave money on the table.

We need to show the benefits to incumbency that are not those of monopolists. What are those? If we can’t answer that question, we won’t be able to sell it.

2 comments

  1. Russell Nelson’s avatar

    I think we should completely deregulate network provision. Yes, the incumbents would raise their prices and try to do price differentiation. But they would also be swimming in shark infested waters and their swimsuit is imprinted with seal silouettes.

    So, they’d either learn to compete in a free market, or go bankrupt and sell their poles, copper, and fiber, to somebody who’s willing to provision the bit pipe that everybody wants.

  2. John Quimby’s avatar

    Well there’s Cable TV and then there’s cable.

    Cable is a delivery system.
    Cable TV likes to think it’s an exclusive content provider.
    The two are usually bundled together.

    I think Cable TV is an endangered species.
    HULU is a the model to watch. NBC Universal / News Corp. just took control of their content and they plan to give it away online. Why? Hits = CASH.

    So yes, what will remain of cable will be the wires and poles and the bandwidth that delivers content. But the channels we watch won’t be built like TV networks on cable anymore. Big difference.

    AND, you can watch video via Verizon or Comcast depending on who offers the better deal. My COX buisness internet cable connection costs $139.00 a month. My Verizon DSL costs $14.95.

    Hmmmm….

Comments are now closed.