The ‘free market’ is why U.S. Internet is so dern slow

If you have visited Hong Kong or South Korea or Japan or any of the countries of Western Europe and done some web-based work in your hotel room and bought an airplane ticket and streamed some movies and music, you might have been impressed. “Wow something has changed!” Fifteen years ago, it was hard to do internet anything in Europe. But the speed of the internet there is good now — that is to say, so much better than it is here.

What happened? As American journalists are just beginning to figure out, the free market happened. Deregulation, that’s what.

The 1996 Telecommunications Act was supposed to foster competition. According to the language of the act itself, it was designed to “promote competition and reduce regulation in order to secure lower prices and higher quality services for American telecommunications consumers and encourage the rapid deployment of new telecommunications technologies.” It reduced regulation. The rest not so much.

There was no way for small start-up companies to lay cables and set up infrastructure, of course. That kind of talk was just a sales pitch for the C-Span audience. Once the bill passed, the big telecom and cable companies, free of oversight, divvied up the market.

So now we’re stuck with internet from 2005 and another lesson we didn’t need about the “free market.”

As John Aziz at the Week puts it:

[blockquote]The idea of a regulated market being more conducive to competition may be alien to free-market ideologues, but telecoms and the internet is a real world example of deregulation leading to monopolization instead of competition in lots of markets.[/blockquote]

He has put together a good rundown with links here.

[ Image by Nicholas Nova ]


  1. No surprise, if you follow the actual reasoning behind the “free market”. It’s INTENDED to have clear winners and to stomp on the losers. The thing is that we USED to have a deregulated market. That is what brought about the regulations in the first place.

    We used to have ONE phone company. You had no other alternative but AT&T, or Ma Ball, as called her. That was broken up so there would be some competition, and for a while there was. Then the Bell systems started to reconsolidate, and now we have AT&T again, as one corporation. They control a huge part of the market, and if deregulation fans have their way, that is what we will have again. Back to square one, as if nothing ever happened.

    The “free market” is a fallacy. There is no such thing, in reality. There is ALWAYS something or someone regulating things, whether they call it that or not. And when you get to the point there that is one person or company, who do you think sets the “free market” then?

    Those who want a “free market” are sure they will be in a sea of honest brokers, all wanting to do an excellent job for the least money. They know NOTHING about history and pay NO attention to anyone who can project forward enough to figure out what will happen without having to live through it.

    Some of us watched Reagan start the downhill slide for this country and tried to tell people NOT to go there. We got called names like traitor and communist because we weren’t foolish enough to follow along with rampant stupidity. 35 years later, some of us are vindicated and have to listen to those who called us those names tell us how they saw this coming all along.

    Free marketers are sociopathic, greedy people who love money far more than they care about your life or right to live one. Only those who worship money think like this, and unfortunately they make the calls for the country. Time to stop worshiping money and start giving a damn about humanity.

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