by John Hawkins | November 28, 2005 3:32 pm
To my way of thinking, rightwingers like you and me should take a great deal of interest in the state-to-state battles between the cable companies and the so-called “Baby Bells” over who controls the airwaves. It started in Texas. And now various levels of government in New Jersey and New York are taking up the question of whether it is time to end the cable companies’ local monopolies on video services.
The Texas legislature and governor said yes, it was. Two months ago they opened the door to allow Verizon to acquire a statewide franchise to provide video services to homeowners. Prior to that, Verizon had to go to every community, hat in hand, to obtain local franchises. This system worked well for Big Cable, as it prohibited anyone from angling in on their easy money. But Internet Protocol Television (or IPTV), the technology behind Verizon’s product, is there in Texas to stay. And the results, thus far, have been fairly encouraging if you are no fan of Big Cable: one customer describes Verizon’s picture quality in glowing terms, and the cost is $13 per month less than cable.
Before too long, every state should confront the problem of cable monopolies, which offer only expensive, inflexible products and poor customer service. There are even bills in the U.S. House and Senate to allow video providers of all kinds the ability to secure national franchises. Congress should pass these measures, to open up competition and thereby hold the line on skyrocketing prices, improve services and ignite innovation.
But an adherence to free market principles isn’t the only reason why rightwingers should support greater competition in the video market. With a greater variety of video service providers will come a greater variety of content. It’s inevitable. And greater, more varied content can only help liven the debate of the public issues rightwingers care most about. Like the use of talk radio, C-SPAN, and small circulation newsletters by Newt Gingrich and his Republican revolutionaries in 1994, the homegrown video products that could, over time, be narrowcast through IPTV technology, rightwingers like me would have another venue for voicing our dissent against the mainstream media. Think of IPTV as a technology that could help spawn TV blogs. Not that is a reason to support reform.
If you enjoyed this post by Patrick Hynes, you can read more of his work at The Channel Changer.
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