Genuflecting to a Monopoly

Reader Vincent sends this Kansas City Star puff piece explaining why Internet rationing is a good thing. The story is chock-full of one-sided analysis, like this choice sentence:

Experts say that changes in the way people use the Internet - and the way some gorge on its endless cache of data - mean current pricing systems could go the way of your dial-up modem.

Characterizing heavy Internet users as pigs ("gorging") and treating price increases as an inevitable side-effect of new technology are two of the techniques used by Internet providers that want to justify higher prices for the same or more limited service. The Star writer never stops to point out that new technology generally leads to higher usage coupled with lower pricing, not the opposite.

Here's another bad analogy in the piece:

"It's sort of like the neighbor was watering his lawn and running his fountain using your connection," Knorr said. "Your water pressure drops, and you're paying his bill."

The difference between a water pipe and an Internet connection is technology: for less than $100 per user, a cable Internet provider can make the pipe 10 times bigger.

The prime example used by the Star is an Internet provider in Lawrence, Kansas, which recently began tiered pricing. The Star piece never deals with the elephant in the room, namely, the consequences of having a monopoly providing a valuable public service. Instead, the Star is happy to give that Internet provider a platform to justify its pricing and practices.

The Star is a McClatchy newspaper. The McClatchy motto is "Truth to Power", but, in this case, power got a puff piece.