PRICE OF TEA IN CHINA
This piece in Arts Technica, titled "The Internet in Kazakhstan, welcome to the land of $3,355 per month DSL", points out how much better we have it vs. Kazakhstanis:
"Consider the prices for Internet access, for one.
Most users (and only four percent of the country even has access) hook up through state-owned Kazakhtelecom, a company not concerned with competitive pricing for its services. An unlimited dial-up plan costs about €82 ($111) in a country where the average monthly wage is €292 ($399).
As for DSL, an unlimited 1.5Mbps connection costs €2,458 ($3,355) a month, and doesn't even included the required ADSL modem. Want a 6Mbps cable connection? It'll cost you, to the tune of €16,144 ($22,032) a month. As the OSCE report drily notes, this is more than a thousand times the price of such a connection in Western Europe."
Sounds pretty amazing, no?
Yet, it was only barely 15 years ago, that these prices would have described how much internet access cost the average person in the United States and Western Europe.
In 1992, the thought of everyone addicted to email in this country in a decade and a half, as this AOL release via Techmeme describes, would seem ludicrous and far-fetched. Yet back then, if a mainstream person wanted an email address, they would need to go back to college, join a government agency, or be a member of the IT staff in a big corporation.
And as we pat ourselves on the back on how much better we have it over the Kazakhstanis today, let us remind ourselves of some of our realities in 2007.
For starters, look at the truly limited choices we have for cable service in most parts of the country, with one or two duopolistic providers offering what they want to sell, and forcing us to use their "operating system" driven cable box, for the privilege of using their pipe (see this terrific piece in Multichannel news, on how Tivo is getting crushed by the cable companies).
And the limited choices we have on our radio stations, because of anachronistic regulation of our airwaves, designed for an era of spectrum scarcity, when technology today obliterates the very notion of that scarcity.
Let's not forget the limited choices we have for fixed line telephone service, again, at a time when the broadband internet access sold to us in a monopolistic fashion by those regulated companies, would obliterate the artificial scarcity of choices for this service.
And the similar limited choices we have in our wireless services, where the carriers dictate what devices may or may not connect to the "cellular dial-tone" they provide, again, by virtue of a regulated license designed to create artificial scarcity.
In many ways, we're not far-removed from our brethren in Kazakhstan.
Maybe in another 15 years, we can all look at these days in as anachronistic a context as $3,355 a month Kazakhstani DSL seems to us today.
If it happens, it'll be thanks to heroic efforts by companies like Google, Microsoft, and other technology companies, who're trying hard to snap our politicians and regulators out of their hypnotized stupor, masterfully induced by the formidable lobbies of the incumbent carriers and media industries.