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January 15, 2006

The New York Times When It’s Right

I grew up in a house where the living room was carpeted on Sunday with the New York Times (except when we couldn’t afford it).  Now the Times is the home page in my browser although I frequently disagree with it.

Today, though, there’s a great article entitled “Hey, Baby Bells: Information Still Wants to Be Free” by Randall Stross. He writes:

“AT the top of my wish list for next year's Consumer Electronics Show is this: the introduction of broadband service across the country that is as up to date as that 103-inch flat-screen monitor just introduced by Panasonic. The digital lifestyle I see portrayed so alluringly in ads is not possible when the Internet plumbing in our homes is as pitiful as it is. The broadband carriers that we have today provide service that attains negative perfection: low speeds at high prices.

“It gets worse. Now these same carriers - led by Verizon Communications and BellSouth - want to create entirely new categories of fees that risk destroying the anyone-can-publish culture of the Internet. And they are lobbying for legislative protection of their meddling with the Internet content that runs through their pipes. These are not good ideas.”

Stross documents the 100megabit service available in Japan for $25/month and the GIGABIT service in Stockholm for $120; compares these with the 6 meg service Comcast’ll sell you for $50/month; concludes that the “premium” services the baby Bells are talking about charging Google et al extra for are only “premium” compared to the miserably slow service Americans are served with today:

“… the occasional need for a preferential fast lane for streaming video.. exists in the United States only because our standard broadband speeds are so slow. Were we ever to become a nation with networks supporting gigabit service, streaming video would not require special handling.”

Damned good point.

Day in and day out knowledgeable bloggers like Michael Parekh (who is also happy about the Times article here) and Jeff Pulver (whose latest post on the issue is here and who has also done a yeoman job trying to inform Congress and the FCC), have been writing the detail of the miserable Internet access service we get from the telco-cableco duopoly and the baby Bells’ threats to make things worse by imposing an unwise and unworkable scheme of providers paying for “premium” treatment.  But, as impressed as I am by the power of the blogosphere, I think a New York Times article like this one – especially when it’s so well done – is more likely to have an impact on public consciousness and public policy than all that we bloggers post.

Maybe that’s just because I remember my parents’ living room on Sunday.

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