Susan Crawford: Unconstrained monopoly power

Writing in Wired, Harvard professor Susan Crawford, former technology adviser to President Obama, made it clear recently that approval of the Verizon/Big Cable Deal is an inherent flaw in our communications policy. The FCC, she said, "decided to unilaterally deregulate utility communications a few years ago, [and] consolidation and harvesting by the companies involved has accelerated."

That hasn't changed, and even public outcry wasn't enough to prevent this merger. A disastrous merger, according to Crawford, and one which displays unconstrained monopoly power. The public has little idea how much power has been handed to the cable companies as a result of Verizon's withdrawal from competition.

"It's as if," she wrote, "we've allowed electricity transmission companies to dictate what brands of appliances can plug into the grid, who gets service, what people pay for it, what kinds of toast are permitted, and what uses of electricity are preferred."

The result: "Americans are paying more than people in many other countries for services that aren't as good, even as inequality in communications leaves more people behind every day."

Crawford sees this merger as more than a bad business deal. She said flatly that "...control by local cable monopolies over information in America is the central communications crisis of our era."

The only way to reverse this ruinous industrial policy is by a lengthy, informed and persistent public campaign by people who want connectivity such as fiber-to-the home and are willing to demand it.

When Competition Is Cooked, Consumers Are Toast (Wired, Aug. 15, 2012)