Controlling who provides our internet access

Several weeks ago, a popular Ottawa openline radio talks show host was going ballistic over what had happened to his internet access.  He lives in the rural part of the city (the City of Ottawa contains both the urban and much of the surrounding rural area).  And while people in many parts of the rural region could not easily get high-speed internet connections, he happened to live in a largish village that had that service.  For years, he was very happy with his internet provider.

This changed.

One day, his ‘regular’ provider – a small, local company – simply went away and was replaced by a big company.  And his internet stopped working ‘right’.  No problem – when there is a change, things are bound to happen… he had no problem with that, as long as things got fixed.  The new provider had a 24-hour support number (so far so good) where customers could report problems and have them dealt with right away.

So, he called the number.  Automated answering system – understandable, so our host goes through the menues.  And more menus.  And more menus.  After over an hour of this, he gave up…

I cannot recall the exact details of this – but I do recall the basics.  And his lines lit up with callers eager to add their own horror-story about the terrible service they had received from this particular provider.  Many were upset that they had no choice to remain with their other providers – there were several, if I am not mistaken.  Yet, all had, simultaneously, dissappeared and were replaced by this one large company whose service was at best poor and customer support mostly non-existant.

What happened?  This is the background to the story:

The City of Ottawa had received complaints from rural residents about the fact that they could not get high-speed internet access.  (This would be referred to as ‘pressure from below’.)  Being a very responsive government (when they want to be), the city councillors decided to solve this problem.  Since the council is made up of people many of who had never held a non-political/public service job in their life – they came up with a somewhat predictable solution:  give one internet provider a monopoly right over all the rural region of the city in exchange for ‘hooking everyone up’!

They put it out to tender, then selected a large international heavyweight with a prestigious name to provide the service.  Very proudly, they announced this success in a press release!  Now, everyone is equal! 

Did you follow what just happened?

Yes, getting a high-speed internet service is a good thing – even for people who choose to live out in the countryside.  I have no problem with that.

What I have a problem with is that the way the City of Ottawa government chose to solve this robbed the rural Ottawans of their rights!

THEY GRANTED SOMEONE A MONOPOLY!!!  And what is more – they effectively forbade companies already providing a commercial service to their customers from continuing to provide this service!

And they are proud of the evil they had committed!

In my never-humble-opinion, it is exactly governments like these that were the reason that beautiful-sounding word, ‘defenestration’, was added to our language!

But consider the mindset at work here:  ‘the government’ is, by definition, a monopoly.  People running this particular government (the majority, anyway – enough of them to outvote the ‘rest’) have no experience outside of the ‘government monopoly’.  They truly and honestly think that monopolies are the best solution to just about every problem.  And then they implement ‘solutions’ such as these…

But this goes beyond just meddling by an incompetent government.  It is a real-life, managable-scale example of how governments and monopolies (or their variations) support each other.  The bigger the government, the bigger the companies – the more tangled the strings get.  But they are there!