Thursday, January 03, 2002

So, Andrew Hofer has noticed that his phone company, Verizon, doesn't seem to give a damn about its customers, since it knows they don't have a choice about most of its services. The problems he's having are hardly unique; other customers of the same service (Verizon home DSL) are trying to sue.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the country, the local phone monopolist has announced that they will be "sharing" customer records, including calling records, with their subsidiaries and commercial partners. Customers can opt out of some of this (though it's not clear how much), if they can get to the web server, or toll-free number, which provides the service.

This is, of course, several years into a telecom deregulation regime which was supposed to save consumers from this sort of thing by offering them choices among local telephone services, and making them compete to provide the best value.

So, we basically let the lobbyists for the telecom companies write the legislation which governs their industry, so long as they promised competition which would benefit the consumer. Instead, we find the bill precipitates wave after wave of consolidation, leaving consumers subject to the whims of unregulated monopolies which indulge in predatory practices that old Ma Bell would never have dreamed of.

Which would have been no surprise to the crusty old sage who wrote few hundred years ago that

People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices.

But I guess he was rather suspicious of businessmen generally...


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