[Plura-list] ISP announces 86% slowdown "in line with others"
doctorow at craphound.com
Sun Jun 27 09:24:46 EDT 2021
* ISP announces 86% slowdown "in line with others": Altice wins the race
to the bottom.
* This day in history: 2011, 2016, 2020
* Colophon: Recent publications, upcoming/recent appearances, current
writing projects, current reading
𖧚 ISP announces 86% slowdown "in line with others"
The surging anti-monopoly movement has been greeted with skepticism from
the left, some of whom suspect the whole thing is merely fetishizing
competition for its own sake, irrespective of whether competing
businesses produce value for their workers, communities and customers.
There's certainly an element of the economic world that sees competition
and market forces as a cure-all, jumping through farcical hoops to push
pro-competitive policies to the exclusion of safety, quality and labor
But sometimes, competition really *does* solve problems - and even more
often, a *lack* of competition *creates* problems.
That's definitely the case for broadband, a "natural monopoly" that has
been left to the private sector, who have colluded to avoid competition,
allowing them to underinvest in capital expenditure and overcharge for
That's why America, the birthplace of the internet, has some of the
slowest, most expensive broadband in the rich world, which was bad
enough before the lockdown turned broadband into a lifeline for
education, health, employment, family life, politics and civics.
Now, as the lockdowns lift across the US, there's credible proposals for
public broadband infrastructure. In many places, public broadband will
be the only service available, thanks to monopolists' neglect of rural
areas and poor urban neighborhoods.
In other places, publicly provided broadband will compete with
monopolists' offerings, forcing lazy, incompetent companies to up their
game - both in hiring technicians and in providing good, fairly priced
Man, does America need this. To see just how cursed American broadband
is, look no further than Altice USA, America's fourth-largest cable
operator. Altice just notified customers that it is slashing its upload
speeds by 86%, effective next month.
Altice insists that there is no operational reason for this: there is no
upload congestion on its network, no problems created by allowing its
customers to participate actively in digital life rather than a passive
(Upload speeds determine whether you can be a Twitch streamer,
participate in videoconferences, or produce and upload ambitious
multimedia materials like videos; download speeds determine how fast
other people and big corporations can shovel their ideas into your eyeballs)
So why is Altice slashing upload speeds? To be "in line with other
ISPs." In other words, "The rest of the industry is fucking awful, so
why should we be any better?"
This is jaw-droppingly perverse logic - and a neat parable about the
problems of market-based service provision without competition. It's not
always the case that competition sends corporations on a race to the top
- but for-profit monopolies *always* race to the bottom.
As "Cowboy Economist" John T Harvey likes to say, competitive markets
*can* be a tool to produce good outcomes, where they fit. The problem
with neoliberal ideologues isn't that they think markets are sometimes
good - it's that they think non-market systems are *always bad*.
An economist who thinks that any problem that can't be solved with
markets should remain unsolved is as weird as a carpenter who declares
that only screw-fasteners are righteous and that nailing materials
together is immoral and should be prohibited.
Public broadband provision is a no-brainer, just like electrification
and interstates - essential public goods that required large-scale,
muscular government intervention to weld the nation together and propel
it into the future.
The experiment of creating private broadband monopolies has been tried,
and it failed. America is full of broadband deserts.
Even if you're lucky enough to get broadband, chances are it will be run
by a perverse monopolist like Altice, who cuts service because they
don't want you to get used to nice things.
𖧚 This day in history
#10yrsago Conservative Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice alleged to have
choked liberal colleague
#10yrsago RIP: editor and anthologist Martin Greenberg
#5yrsago Supreme Court strikes down Texas abortion law
#5yrsago Snowden publicly condemns Russia’s proposed surveillance law
#5yrsago Shrill: Lindy West’s amazing, laugh-aloud memoir about fatness,
abortion, trolls and rape-jokes
#1yrago Snowden on tech's Oppenheimers
Today's top sources: Slashdot (https://slashdot.org/).
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* The Shakedown, with Rebecca Giblin, nonfiction/business/politics,
Beacon Press 2022
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