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TinotopiaLog → Broadband and corporate politics ( 8 Jan 2002)
Tuesday 08 January 2002

Broadband and corporate politics

There’s an excellent article by Lawrence Lessig in The Washington Post on factors holding back broadband network access for the masses in the United States. His take — and I am not sure I agree — is that it’s a matter of corporate fear, basically. Anyway, he makes some good points, including:

[…]piracy is not the most important reason copyright holders have been slow to embrace the net. A bigger reason is the threat the Internet presents to their relatively comfortable ways of doing business. “Major copyright holders” have enjoyed the benefits of a relatively concentrated industry. […]

Online music is the best example of this potential. Five years ago the market saw online music as the next great Internet application. A dozen companies competed to find new and innovative ways to deliver and produce music using the technologies of the Internet. […]

These experiments in innovation are now over. They have been stopped by lawyers working for the recording industry. Every form of innovation that they disapproved of they sued. And every suit they brought, they won. Innovation outside the control of the “majors” has stopped.

Whether or not these courts were right as a matter of substantive copyright law, what is important is the consequence of this regulation: innovation and growth in broadband have been stifled as courts have given control over the future to the creators of the past. The only architecture for distribution that these creators will allow is one that preserves their power within a highly concentrated market.

Posted by tino at 23:43 8.01.02
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Actually I don’t agree with Mr. Lessig’s theory that corporate fear that is holding back broadband. I do think that it has a role in companies being reluctant in putting up content but not with network access. Rather I think that it is corporate greed and ignorance that is holding it back.

Corporate geed is overpricing connectivity. If it was cheaper more people would try it and once you try it you never want to go back to a 56K dial-up. Make the cost of a broadband connection the same as a dial-up ($15-$25/month) and you will see more demand. I think the broadband providers have missed the simple concept that you can usually sell more at a cheaper price and still make money. [maybe they are taking economics lessons from the publishing industry. :-)]

Now onto corporate ignorance. I don’t think the corporate broadband providers are handling setting up their networks correctly. On the local loop side it is very short sighted for the broadband providers to not build out capacity in anticipation of everyone having access. It isn’t like they aren’t re-using most of the infrastructure they already have in place (read: cables/phone lines). Additionally the bradband providers need to build out the servicelike a utility. They give you a “dial tone” (IP connection). They should not be in the business of PC hardware installations and support. This gets them away from their core business (network connectivity) and into to much end user support. That would eliminate the need for any large scale support structure and all the associated costs that go with it.

Posted by: Paul Johndon at January 14, 2002 09:52 AM