Will Monopolies Steal the Infrastructure Money?

8 min read
We tend to talk about infrastructure in terms of spending amounts. But infrastructure in a monopoly-dominated economy is not just about money, it's about who governs.

Welcome to BIG, a newsletter about the politics of monopoly. If you'd like to sign up, you can do so here. Or just read on…

Today I'm writing about the Congressional debate over what we call 'infrastructure,' meaning our ports, roads, railroads, broadband, and the physical plant on which the U.S. operates. In this debate, there's a lot of focus on the amounts of money, but not a lot on the rules setting market power over these different sectors. So that's what I'm going to write about, specifically looking at two sectors, railroads and broadband. Both of these sectors have been critical during the pandemic.

Also, I'll have some stats on the extent of shortages in the U.S., and a few thoughts on the Facebook whistleblower who released a tranche of sensitive documents over the last few weeks.

First, some house-keeping. I turned the series of shortages into a piece for the Guardian that went sort of viral. I'm getting a lot more tantalizing tidbits on what is happening in the guts of U.S. supply chains, more on that in future issues.

And now…

Here's a 2010 map of public requests for Google Fiber to enter their community and deliver high-speed broadband.

Why Does Rural England Have Better Broadband than Manhattan?

A few months ago, I got a note from a reader deeply involved in broadband policy. He wanted to explain why competition, and not just investment, is a driving factor in what kinds of internet access we get. Here's what he wrote:

Can you imagine living in a place where internet service can be as fast as 3 gigabits per second, there are lots of internet providers, and they compete on speed, price, and quality of service? If you lived in London, UK, or indeed in York or rural England or much of Europe (where the average price of an internet connection is about $20 a month cheaper than in the US), you wouldn't have to imagine, this would be your reality. But as any of your readers in the US know from their own experience, this is not the experience…
Matt Stoller
Read full article