“Government monopolies in telecom will always destroy the value of the Internet”

Gregor just published a video interview with Prof Larry Lessig where Lessig comments on certain cultural issues and the very controversial telecoms policy our government is pursuing.

One quote stands out for me and that is the following:

… Government monopolies in telecom will always destroy the value of the Internet …

And this was just the warm up. The more I listen to outside perspectives the more infuriated I become about how myopic our government and Telkom are when it comes to the provision of telecommunications services in South Africa. As Lessig points out, our infrastructure is “backwards” because it is based on the creation of an all-powerful monopoly that dictates which services will be provided and when they will be provided. What we really need here in South Africa is an open playing field which facilitates innovation and competition and not the opposite.

Granted we have very few options at the moment but it is important to create more of an awareness of these issues. I have been ranting about Telkom and our telecoms infrastructure for quite some time now. I believe that meaningful access to the Internet should be recognised as a fundamental right in our Bill of Rights. In economic terms, access to the Internet is analogous to access to water (in my non-economist view), not a privilege to buy for ridiculous amounts of money.

My wife and I have noticed interesting looking posters on street poles advertising a service known as “do“. It turns out this is a Telkom offering and a shoddily put together offering at that. Hitting the wire has a post about the new service and it is a good example of loads of hype and promise designed to exploit the ignorance of its intended audience. This Apple-esque website promises downloadable music, movies, gaming and more and offers these wonderful things at the same time promoting crappy ADSL products with caps as high as 3GB (insert sarcastic “wow” here). This service is the equivalent of offering day old bread when all we have ever had is mouldy bread. Our appreciation for these wondrous services is little more than an expression of our Stockholm Syndrome. Put simply … it is all a sham. We are being kept ignorant of the norm in other countries where broadband is, at a minimum, megabit connections with far higher (or no) caps. Then, to add to the insult, we are expected to be grateful for what we get?

So the next question is what we are going to do about this? Are we going to do anything or are we going to sit around, grumble, pay up and get back to what we were doing?

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