Re: CPSR document on telecom [cr-95/10/27]


Sender: •••@••.••• (Glen Raphael)

As a CPSR member, I have problems with the proposed telecom document. I
apparently just don't get it. Let's see:

>    In a direct blow to diversity, the bill raises the percentage of
>    national audience that a single person or company can reach from
>    25% to 35%.

If I'm reading this right, then why isn't it 100%?  What exactly is wrong
with a single person or company being able to reach _anyone_ who chooses to
use that medium and feels like dialing that entity up? Isn't one great
thing about the Web that it provides this very capability?

>Some of the advanced information services
>    could well become available only to affluent people or to
>    institutions in privileged areas.

Um, so what? Is cable television really a basic human right? Is a dedicated
T-1 line? To the contrary, I claim that it would be wasteful and stupid to
tax everyone in an attempt to make "advanced" services more heavily used.
Let competition drive down prices for all; attempts to micromanage pricing
will only interfere with the trends that are making these services better
and cheaper for everyone. If we were to think of networks as food
providers, then "advanced services" would be the caviar and lobster. We
don't regulate food prices in order to ensure that no matter how
ridiculously "advanced" a food product is that product is available to
everyone; why regulate network prices with the same goal in mind? Note that
this applies to cable as a whole and especially to "non-Basic" service
levels. If Joe Smith can't afford HBO this month, I really don't care.
Neither should you.

>Problem 3.  The bill censors public discussion on electronic networks.

I agree with this one. This section of the bill should be removed. But the
other sections don't go far enough.

>Problem 4.  The bill lets rates rise too fast and too much.

If you _really_ want to see competition pop up, what you need is for prices
to be as HIGH as possible. The higher rates rise, the more incentive there
is for competitors to enter the market. On the other hand, if the
government regulates to keep prices down, we will be stuck indefinitely
with unresponsive (and expensive!) local monopolies. _Consumer's Research_
magazine did a study which showed pretty clearly that those cities which
allow cable competition have lower rates and offer more channels than those
which do not.

People who have cable television are NOT "information haves"; they are
"passive entertainment haves", if that. The fact that somebody doesn't have
access to, say, the Cartoon Network or the Sci-Fi Channel is simply not
going to destroy his or her future financial prospects.

>    rates are not regulated for advanced
>    information services.  These services could end up costing far
>    more than necessary

Define "necessary". When any good first becomes available, high prices are
"necessary" in order to reimburse up-front development costs and in order
to encourage competitors to jump into the market. The only workable
definition of what price is "necessary" is the price that people are
willing to pay in a free market.

>    * Promote diversity of programming by requiring carriers to
>      provide services to other companies at reasonable rates.

As an alternative, I would suggest that we promote diversity of programming
by prohibiting government from putting up regulatory barriers to entry.
Carriers simply shouldn't have government-enforced monopolies.

>       If telephone
>      companies and cable companies merge in sparsely-populated areas
>      that lack competition, continue price regulation.

This is the worst thing you could possibly do for the people in those
areas. It's almost as bad an idea as continuing rent control in areas where
there is a housing shortage. It will aggravate and maintain the problem
rather than solving it.

>    * Reject censorship, which is a big step backward and is totally
>      unacceptable.  Leave it up to parents make their own choices.
>      Strip out the provisions on "Obscene or harassing use" and
>      "Protection of Minors."

I agree with this one, but it seems to be our only point of agreement.

Glen Raphael, •••@••.•••
President, Stanford/Palo Alto Macintosh User's Group
<A HREF="">Home Page</A><BR>

 Posted by Andrew Oram  - •••@••.••• - Moderator: CYBER-RIGHTS (CPSR)
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