Huff: Why Summit County ever got telephones |

Huff: Why Summit County ever got telephones

A long time ago the public partnered with telecommunications companies, mostly AT&T’s Bell Systems, and granted them service monopolies for large chunks of the US. This meant that only one company would provide your telecommunications needs and in exchange that company would be required to service rural areas such as Summit County. The larger populations payed all of the cost to wire the smaller populations. The US, by the late 1930s, was the most connected country in the world and that was saying something since we were also one of the most sparsely populated industrialized nations.

The return on investment, protected by monopoly status, allowed AT&T to prosper. Their research facilities, Bell Labs, were the best in the world and along with contracts from the department of defense created powerful patents, the transistor in 1947 for example. While the Bell System had the ability to project digital data across it’s networks, there was not an economic reason to do so. They did not invent the internet.

Along came the cold war and the need to compete in defense technologies. ARPA, Advanced Research Projects Agency (later Defense was added to become DARPA) ask and payed for the nation’s top universities to engineer a way to provide secure digital (computer) nationwide communications across the AT&T telephone network. This elegant system, developed by a Stanford University scientist, Vincent Cerf, became the internet we know today. The important part to understand about the internet is that it was derived with tax funded research for the protection of the nation. There was not a commercial need for this facility and therefore no private company independently created it. Much like Eisenhower’s interstate highway system, with required straight sections for, in the event of wartime, aircraft landing capacity, the public good was the driving force behind the internet.

Later, when the public – private monopolies were disbanded, deregulation required competitive reselling of those private networks. This was because the nation’s backbone ran across easements granted by the public to that monopoly. This newly formed competition between new players would result in a huge over-capacity for the internet backbone which, to this day, is still mostly untapped. To maintain prices the larger players have purchased and kept dark many of these cables in order to maximize value by increasing the appearance of scarcity.

Enter Comcast, who controls thru the purchase of Times Warner, most of the “last mile” connections in the US. Comcast would like to enforce product control over the internet.They do not plan, it seems to be fair with competition. They are experimenting with “throttled” capacity for competing products like Netflix. This is exactly like having a private company buy a section of interstate highway, built and maintained with public funds over public right of ways, and then blocking trucks attempting to deliver competitors products.

I like my Comcast services but not at the expense of a neutral internet delivery system.

Phil Huff


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