[SATLUG] Old thread but is Google still your frin?

travis+ml-satlug at subspacefield.org travis+ml-satlug at subspacefield.org
Tue Aug 10 18:51:18 CDT 2010

On Tue, Aug 10, 2010 at 08:14:10AM -0500, Don Davis wrote:
> One of the best examples I've heard of the benefit of capitalism in
> action is toilet paper. A citizen of the former GDR pointed out toilet
> paper. East German toilet paper was a bit infamous for being rough (like
> our brown paper towels).

I think USAF must get their TP from there ;-)

No perfs, single ply...  tends to tear longways so that you get a
long, useless strip.  Probably an ascetic, spartan thing, like not
having color on your overhead transparencies.

> We need more competitors or internet access should be municipally run to
> provide equitable service to all for a fair price.

I discuss this in my paper (see homepage), but in most jurisdictions,
land is recognized as a special, non-portable kind of property - so
you have certain right-of-way laws that allow people to get to their
land even if someone else encircles them.

The prying open of "last mile" connectivity is a right-of-way law for
our bits.  You just have to be really careful that you don't get
"regulatory capture", where the regulators end up being "owned" by the
companies, and pass laws that effectively prohibit competition.

This happened about two decades ago in Arizona, where the big mine
owners got laws passed that required all mine owners to file costly
paperwork very frequently.  The small mines couldn't afford staff to
do this - economy of scale issues - and so the big ones gobbled them
up, and the regulations exist as a formidable barrier to entry for any
potential buyer of one or two mines.

A similar thing happens with banks in certain places in Europe;
basically existing banks get to vote on whether you can get a license
to operate there or not.  If they think you'll drop prices - no go.

Also you have to worry about a global or nation-wide ISP who can drop
local prices in response to any new local entrant, effectively running
them out of the business, and then jack prices back up again.  Pretty
soon intelligent people get the message - don't F with (big oil, big
ISP, big whatever).  Moderately intelligent people simply see the
historical failures of companies that tried to compete with them and
assume it's a bad gamble, and move to other endeavors.  Unintelligent
people end up learning the hard way.

Nor is total lassez-faire deregulation always in the public's best
interest.  Our last bank bubble is one example in recent memory.
Another trend around the world (not so much in the US) is the forced
privatization of local water, school systems, ISPs, and other natural
monopolies, where the private owners can then jack up rates to be on
par with any alternatives, such as bottled water.  In some cases the
people in these areas simply can't afford sufficient water any more,
and in many cases the cost of moving somewhere is likewise prohibitive
(indeed, this is one of the alternatives against which the local
monopoly prices itself).  One can expect that prices would gradually
rise, to avoid a sudden jump that would make moving worthwhile.

IMHO, the solution isn't an ideology, because I've seen enough cases
where the ideologically-pure systems are obviously less than optimal
for the public.  The answer seems to be "it depends on the situation".
A Weapon of Mass Construction
My emails do not have attachments; it's a digital signature that your mail
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