But what do these competitors consist of? Cable companies offer faster Internet service currently than phone companies’ ADSL, but the cable companies would have to build entirely new networks to provide fiber to the home. Satellite service and wireless are not competitive with fiber. As I said in a major piece earlier this week, the telephone companies are trying to confuse the public and the legislators by mixing up the underlying physical network with the Internet service that runs on it.
And when it comes to regular telephone service, the companies that cooperated with the NSA are essentially still monopolies. (Qwest, to its credit, refused to help the NSA.) So I’m not surprised to read about the true state of competition in the Boston Globe today:
Lisa Pierce, a vice president at Forrester Research in Cambridge, estimates that Verizon, AT&T, BellSouth together account for 90 percent of the country’s landlines and two-thirds of its wireless phone accounts. She said it’s possible angry customers might desert the companies for a competitor who wouldn’t share their records.
“There’s not too many people out there who wouldn’t be affected by this one way or another,” she said. “the question is who would you move to?”
Who indeed? It is precisely because the major telcos have gauged the extent of their market power–now that they’ve removed the threat of competition–that they can squeeze everybody’s favorite Web sites for more money. And that they can carry off a conspiracy with the NSA.
What they’ve given the NSA, according to news reports, is call tracking information, requires less proof than the content of phone conversations to tap. But it still requires court approval in every single case. Once again, the administration has broken the law–and if Americans let them get away with it, before you know it, we will all be Guantanamo.