While we’re distracted by the tussles over the radio spectrum for mobile services and broadcast television and cell phones and a zillion other applications, keep your eye on the prize. Broadband means big data pipes delivered right to your door (or basement or apartment to be more precise). Phone companies like Verizon and AT&T got there first by with FTTH (Fiber To The Home), but others including Google have announced other high-speed broadband initiatives. Consumers are growing more and more dependent on broadband connections daily, for everything from phone to Internet access to television programming.
This fact apparently is not lost on some of the captains of industry. According to a piece in the Wall Street Journal Online earlier this month, Landel Hobbes — Chief Operating Officer at Time Warner Cable — believes that broadband data access is now the company’s “anchor product”, replacing television programming. He was quoted as saying “Consumers like it so much that we have the ability to increase pricing around high-speed data.”
In other words, they’ve got us over a barrel and they can just keep turning up the heat (or some other horribly mixed metaphor). He makes a good point, and from where I sit, the only solution is competition. So it pays to keep track of developments in your town, county, and state, especially if there’s a new service trying to get a license to compete with an existing cable company. Whether it’s wire, or fiber, or even one of the new wireless broadband initiatives that have been proposed, it is important that cable companies finally lose their government-sanctioned monopoly on delivering data and entertainment to homes (and businesses). Only through the presence of viable alternatives can we establish the competition required to reach the real price of Internet access.