Susan Crawford’s Fiber demonstrates how America’s myth that the free market works in every instance has failed Americans when it comes to accessing truly high-speed Internet connectivity.
Crawford demonstrates how the people of several countries and cities around the world have access to substantially faster Internet connections and pay a fraction of the cost for their faster service than do Americans. The biggest reason why so many have faster, cheaper Internet access than do Americans is the way better-connected societies have treated connectivity. In places where government has recognized that Internet connectivity is like a public utility and have regulated accordingly, service is better, cheaper, and more widely available. For the vast majority of America, where most people are served by a monopoly, the different monopolies have no incentive to provide better, cheaper, more widely available service; in fact, the cost of providing better service would decrease what could otherwise be given to shareholders. So, our corporate monopolies have an incentive to provide as bad and expensive service they can without driving people away. Since they are monopolies and we need the Internet, we have no choice but to settle for bad, expensive service.
Most interestingly, Crawford uses examples like chattanooga, Tennessee and Wilson North Carolina (places where government has stood up to corporations) to demonstrate how government provides far better access to cheaper, faster Internet connectivity than do corporations.
Crawford’s main argument is that Internet connectivity should be treated, at a minimum, as a public utility. She demonstrates the soundness for this position by comparing current Internet connectivity throughout America with government involvement in expanding electricity to rural America during Franklin Roosevelt’s administration.
Personally, I would like to see government run high-speed Internet services. The public utility approach to electricity and water certainly isn’t serving us well.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the passages of the book dealing with instances where corporations have used their political donations to pay for legislation that hurt consumers. Sadly, I think many of us know how often corporate money leads to policies that go against the public good, but reading about it is never easy.
If you enjoy thinking about a more efficient way of governing, you want to see how societies not wedded to the myth of the always good free market, and you want to imagine what things could look like–Fiber will be well worth your time.