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The Price of a Freebie
The Federal Communications Commission is now offering a free broadband speed test
so you can know how fast your home or business connection really is.
The problem, despite the FCC's vowed privacy claims, is that it and its two private companies partnering for this service actually are
collecting information on you, and it's personal. Even though the test doesn't ask for your name, your IP address is collected, along with information you have to provide about your physical address.
Oh, you say you have nothing to hide?
And even if you really don't (you very strange person), you don't understand how the Internet works. You also don't understand your own computer on a network and what can be done by people with big, powerful computers and the ability to carve through your machine, especially with your gullible permission.
Go ahead and use that FCC broadband speed test. After all, it's free.
So is stupidity.
Uh, does this mean I have to give back that bridge I bought from Timmy?
No, Father Tyme.
You need—indeed, we all need—a bridge over bubbled waters.
I'll wait, though, until I see you make it across.
I'll send some ducks out to rescue you if the bridge collapses. I'll tell them that you're a small ship sinking; and then, Father Tyme, you know what I'll tell them to get them to rescue you?
Are you ready for this?
I'll tell them, "Duck that ship!"
That's what I'll tell them.
The Dark Wraith went WAY too far for that one, didn't he?
You're probably a little too young to remember this excerpt from this ditty by Patti Page (although PoLT should remember it well!):
...If you have built a boat to take you to the greener side,
And if the boat is built of every lie you ever lied,
You'll never reach the Promised Land of Love, I guarantee
'Cause lies cannot hold water and you'll sink into the sea
Cross over the bridge, cross over the bridge
Change your reckless way of livin', cross over the bridge
Leave your fickle past behind you,
And true romance will find you,
Brother, cross over the bridge
But the more I think about it, there's a song by the Mike Curb Congregation from the movie "Kelly's Heroes" back in 1970. It's called "Burning Bridges" and seems apropos.
(Commie Cast sucks)
Hi Dark Wraith.
That speed test works great! Thank you for sharing that wonderful link!
Nah, I didn't really get my connection tested. I already know it's senior turtle slow, so they don't have to tell me.
You had me worried there for a minute, Old White Lady.
And you're not the only one with less-than-promised speed. Verizon broadband DSL has a really bad habit of simply dropping and then coming back on awhile later. A few rounds with tech support convinced me that they know very well that this is a chronic problem. They also know that their usual routine of trying to spin me around and somehow find it's my computer's fault doesn't work. My last conversation with them ended with me courteously explaining that they are billing me for a service that is faulty, and I asked if this would be a matter I should take up with the Federal Trade Commission or Federal Communications Commission. The nice lady to whom I was speaking (she had a handsome accent) handed me over to the customer service representative manager, who promised me they'd have a service person come by to see what was going on with my line. Unfortunately, he told me it was, indeed, my fault, or rather the fault of some kind of equipment out back that would cost me a lot to fix.
He knew better, of course. I told him that. Pretty much everyone around here who has Verizon service has the same problem with frequent, dropped connections.
I understand his position, though: he isn't authorized to deal in facts, not with customers, anyway.
Firms in non-competitive industries are quirky that way. It's a shame this nation's core antitrust laws are almost a century old.
Maybe Obama and the Democrats in Congress will get around to modernizing those laws one of these days.
Yes, I'm sure that's on the agenda.
I think I just made a funny, except that I'm not in the mood to laugh after writing about my recent experience with an oligopolist.
Ole' sweet Jesus! Now I'm gonna have to look up the meaning of oligopolist.
Good evening, Missouri Mule.
An "oligopoly" is an industry that has only a small number of firms. Some industries can have relatively few firms but the companies compete fiercely for market share, and it is altogether possible for firms in the industry to fail.
Over a long period of time, competitive entry (and, as noted in the last sentence, exit) will be seen, although in the short run it looks like the players are pretty much permanent fixtures.
The auto industry might have looked like an oligopoly, but it probably wouldn't meet the stringent standards, which go beyond technical numbers the Federal Trade Commission uses (like the so-called "HHI") to define "competitive" versus "non-competitive" industries.
You see, the defining characteristic of an oligopoly is the natural tendency of the firms in it to plan, price, and otherwise act strategically. The landscape is not a short-run battlefield of competitors, but more like a vast scape of co-players; resources; opportunities; threats: emergent, transitional, enduring, and passing technologies; and market openings and closings.
When Intel, for example, releases a new chip that gets lots of people to buy a new computer, the company is already in one stage or another of researching, developing, and testing several generations of chips well past the one that's brand new on the shelves. What we see as new is, in a very real sense, obsolete, in the mad race of technological innovations of this time and era.
(If I were to tell you some of the things that will be showing up in your lifetime, you would think I was being speculative, at best, and downright off my rocket, at worst. In fact, I'd be telling you things that are certainly going to be part of our lives in the next 30 years. What's coming after that, in 50 to a hundred years, you would simply not believe. You also wouldn't believe what's going to be the same, either.)
Getting back to examples of oligolopic behaviors and examples, without trying to annoy the peak oil folks, the big oil companies aren't stupid: they know very well that hydrocarbons will become more and more expensive to extract from places of greater and greater challenge throughout the 21st Century. They don't know everything, but they do know how to plan for the long haul, and they have no intention of dying just because the hydrocarbon battlefields are going to lay waste to just about any and every environmentally sensitive place on Earth and entail a complex design of political, military, and social entanglements that will be to the detriment of a lot of people but ultimately, if executed with care and control, extraordinarily profitable and beneficial to setting the corporate stage of their engagements for the world of the late-21st Century and beyond.
Does that sound like conspiracy theory? It's not. It's just how oligopolists work. Unlike people and even governments, oligopolists generally do not die. Their names change, their outward appearances to people and sovereigns may change, but they remain essentially the same: strategic positioners with a hint of immortality, both in endurance and in ability to affect not just our lives, but the lives of our children and our children's children.
And in case anyone was thinking of asking me about it, the answer is, "No, there is no way to stop them." They are, after all, considerably less mortal than anyone or any institution that might have designs on doing so.
That's why, in the end, I know very well that there will be no modernization of any worth to our antitrust laws. While Mr. Obama and his Democrat allies in Congress might or might not be stupid, they certainly aren't stupid enough to pass laws contrary to the interests of immortal things.
That would be worse than stupid; it would, in fact, be downright blasphemous.
"When Intel, for example, releases a new chip that gets lots of people to buy a new computer, the company is already in one stage or another of researching, developing, and testing several generations of chips well past the one that's brand new on the shelves. What we see as new is, in a very real sense, obsolete, in the mad race of technological innovations of this time and era."
Very interesting bit there, DW. If we apply it to Congress, it becomes 'purfeckly clear' that we are getting obsolete representation.
My concern is the R&D of the upcoming class! You'd think they'd have all the bugs worked out over 200 years...
Dr. Wraith says:
"Does that sound like conspiracy theory? It's not. It's just how oligopolists work."
Adam Smith says:
“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.”
So, do they 'conspire', or is that just how they work?
Good morning, zipperhead.
Adam Smith was stating the obvious: each of us acts to self-interest based upon expected reward for the risk perceived in the undertaking. If you or I can conspire to "raise prices," then we will if the increased profit is commensurate with or exceeds the risk of the conspiracy, both from the sovereign and the others in the effort.
However, in a market where there is a high degree of competition and many firms producing close substitutes for one another, such a conspiracy as price fixing will not long survive. In game theory, this is called the "Prisoner's Dilemma" and its extensions. OPEC is a fabulous example of a conspiracy where the plans to peg oil prices through allocated, reduced production schedules for the members routinely collapses, both from the internal (especially smaller members') incentives to cheat on their assigned production quotas and from the availability of competing producers not in the conspiracy. Moreover, a price too high for too long would make the opportunity cost of foregoing necessary research, development, production, and deployment of alternatives to hydrocarbons too high, and once widespread technological diffusion had occurred, the cartel's product—and, therefore, the cartel's profit—would be permanently impaired.
Returning to the ability to fix prices, I mentioned the potential of the sovereign to impose market discipline. We have seen this throughout history: sometimes, the sovereign is the enforcer of non-competitive market power, and occasionally, it is the deterrent.
In the later Middle Ages, sovereigns learned not to stop the guilds of non-nobles from price fixing conspiracies because, even though the nobility paid higher prices, the royals knew that the "economic rents" being earned by the guilds were available for lending to the crown to prosecute such projects as wars.
In more modern times, the American trusts that were making prices ridiculously high in the later 19th Century finally got the goat of the government, which first passed the Sherman Antitrust Act in 1890, only to have the Supreme Court contort (excuse me, "interpret") the essential will of the Congress which had written the admittedly vague law. By the second decade of the 20th Century, the will of the people had turned sufficiently liberal (for a brief time) that the Congress put serious teeth into Sherman with an amendment called the Clayton Act, and a separate law, the Federal Trade Commission Act. Clayton got very specific with what constituted antitrust violations, leaving the courts far less room to construct activist interpretations (although that did not deter the Supreme Court from doing so in Colgate, which effectively kept price fixing legal in line with previous, "performance based" review of antitrust cases). The Federal Trade Commission Act, far-reaching as it was, at least theoretically, removed from judicial review the routine interpretation of antitrust law and removed from traditional law enforcement instrumentalities the supervision of application of antitrust law.
— continued below —
— continued from above —
Most unfortunately, that isn't the end of the story of sovereign involvement. The Supreme Court still has the power, although it used to avoid using it, to overrule regulatory interpretation of law. Far worse, the modern history of antitrust law enforcement is less than stellar. The break-up of Ma Bell was a clarion call that antitrust law written in the first decades of the 20th Century was no match for the complexities of markets and technologies in the post-World War II era. Even worse is the domination of neo-Keynesianism, dedicated as its powerful adherents have been to "industrial policy" and a theory of "countervailing forces" supplanting regulatory responsibility for competitive, efficient markets (on both the company and labor sides, with the latter ultimately losing in the neo-Keynesian gambit). This over-arching public policy (through both Democrat and Republican administrations) has allowed for some staggering examples of the deliberate or malfeasant failure of the sovereign in its duty to keep markets competitive.
A fabulous example comes from the Clinton Administration, whose point men in matters of technology—most notably, Vice President Al Gore—sat back and allowed the principals of Microsoft Corp. to commit incomprehensibly market-distorting violations of antitrust law. By the time any kind of legal sanctions were drawn, Microsoft had become far too powerful to be stopped, and even the consents of Microsoft in the resolution of its legal battle with the government never really amounted to anything whatsoever. The same is happening with Google, right now. While the Bush Administration might have been forgiven for its love affair with (and ignorance of the dangers of) yet one more emergent monopolist, the same cannot be said of the savvy people of the Obama Administration, who are doing some tepid, toothless barking at Google but making no material gestures of a legal manner that will stop the entrenchment of the behemoth.
So where does that leave "the public"?
Powerless, of course.
Then again, we are not forced to use Google or its products, we are not forced to buy cell phones, we are not forced to use Microsoft Office, but we do, anyway; and even if we don't, we end up getting bluffed into thinking our alternatives really are alternatives ("Get Firefox," comes laughably to mind), when those are nothing but alternative packaging of Brand X with the same toxic teeth waiting to harm us, hurt us, and diminish our lives.
Welcome to the 21st Century. Adam Smith is dead.
I'm not, of course; but, then again, I'm just some writer who runs Al's All-Nite Diner (and motel) on the highway to the end of history.
Would anyone like a refill on coffee?
How about Google Chrome? I still use Opera, though more and more sites don't play nice with it. I tried Firefox way back, didn't see it as any better, now I don't see it as different at all from IE.
As for technology...my newest cell phone (not a smart phone, but a really nice one with no keyboard, has a better camera than my first digital, has the same size hard drive as my first computer HD, and can take a mini SD with bigger memory than that. You are talking 20 years, and the device in my hand is more powerful than my old desk-top. Or my new net book which is equal to the new desk-top we bought last year, just no internal CD drive. Wild, but I am not being surprised by new techie toys- sometimes impressed, but not surprised.
I'll have that coffee now, black, no sugar.
We went to the moon and back a few times with a computer that had 128 K!! However, the specs said it had to be dropped from a 10 story building onto a concrete pavement and still work. It did. Don't think today's toys will survive a fall from a table!
A friend told me that the first Apollo Computer still works. Don't know about that but my 4 K Altair/Imsai from 1977 still functions though programming is a bear. (And it doesn't have those really swell apps!)
How many LED TIs from the early 70s are still working, if you can find them - quite a few.
And very rarely did a ringer phone from MaBell EVER have to be replaced; not like the cells today.
Boy! Have we come a long way.
Make that Irish Coffee!
Make that Irish Coffee!
And easy on the coffee.
Ah, but one thing has occurred Father Tyme...there is apparently now a demand for toys that are less fragile. My new cell is one of two I saw at Verison that have a rubberized body...mine meets military specs for being dust, static, moisture and impact resistant. Oh woe is me, it isn't a pretty color and is about the size flip phones were 6 years ago. But the battery lasts several days between charges and I don't have to flip out if it is raining. I think a lot of us 50 or so year olds coming in and getting rid of the disposable crap that has been foisted off on us for years. I should NOT be cheaper to replace an entire VCR than to get the heads cleaned. But if the cleaning involves a recalibration, yeah, it's cheaper.
Anyway, I have my old Bell phone for when I need it, and a few things I see no need to replace until they actually die...The Big boy just inherited an acrylic plaid shirt from me...it is too small, but I have had it since 1975...used to be my favorite shirt, noticed one day while taking it out of the dryer in 76 it said "dry clean only". So I do not believe in disposable anything.
Good morning, Darkest One.
Thank you for the illuminating definition of an oligopolist.
I really should mail you a check for all the things I have learned reading your blog the last six years. Sadly, my money is a tad funny at this time. Perhaps I could work off a small portion of what I owe you changing the bed-cloths at Al's- No-Tell-Motel
Send me an application.
At first that sounds like a good idea (the application). BUT...I have a few questions.
IS there some sort of aptitude test to be taken?
Does race matter? or Sex?
What kind of Health Care Insurance do you provide?
If my girlfriend gets pregnant by some politician, can I take Family Leave?
Can I have certain days off for practicing my religion, whatever I decide it to be?
How many three-day weekends do we get?
How many paid holidays?
Do you offer a 401(k) or a different retirement incentive?
How often do we get raises?
Do you really expect us to work 40 hours per week?
Can we have a week's vacation after 6 months employment?
How long are lunch breaks?
Do we get a discount on diner food? Overnight stays at the Al's No-Tell Motel?
Are there bedbugs?
Do you REALLY want a urine sample?
Does DADT apply?
In regard to Number 1 above, if I pass the others, can I drop the final?
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