In her new book, Captive Audience, Susan Crawford makes the same argument that the lawyers for AT&T made in Judge Harold H. Greene’s courtroom in response to the government’s antitrust complaint beginning in 1981, i.e., that telephone service was a “natural monopoly.” In those days, AT&T wanted regulation and hated competition, which is the same as Crawford’s perspective with respect to broadband now. Here is what she said today on the Diane Rehm Show:
Diane Rehm: “Is regulation the next step?”
Susan Crawford: “It always has been for these industries, because it really doesn’t make sense to have more than one wire into our homes. It is a very expensive thing to install; once it’s there, it has to be kept up to the highest level of maintenance, it has to allow for lots of competition at the retail level–across this wholesale facility–and it has to be available to consumers at reasonable cost. That kind of result isn’t produced by the marketplace; it doesn’t happen by magic, because … when you can divide markets, and cooperate, you’re not going to come up with the best solution for consumers.
In her book, Crawford candidly says that “America needs to move to a utility model” for broadband … and “stop treating this commodity as if it were a first-run art film…”
It’s time for a stroll down memory lane.