进入因特网:

规则或市场?

中心政策研究第92

作者: 柯大為 David Kopel

出版:中心学院09/01/1999

随着长途电话电缆公司花费数十亿元将国家电缆电视网络数字化,可进入因特网的居民宽带也渐渐成了现实。电缆业及电缆和其它宽带技术业者之间的竞争也日益激烈。在这样的情况下,一群因特网服务商,容量供应商及当地电话公司纷纷要求电缆公司以提供给他们自己的因特网会员及子公司同样优惠的条件来访问电缆网络。准予他们的要求将危及宽带系统的未来投资,引发不可克服的技术问题,消费者受到的伤害远远超过受益。

1.电缆公司在因特网宽带通路上大量投资引发了一场改革,竞争,发展。

宽带是指单线,电缆,人造卫星盘或天线在同时支持几个通路的能力。这个能力能大大地增强数据传输量及速率。今天,大多数因特网数据是在宽带网络上运行的。但是通向家庭或小商业公司的电脑的进户线很窄,通常是专门的电话线。这就大大地降低了发送数据的速度。

长途电话及电缆公司花了数十亿美元转换宽带的进户线。AT&T正花费18亿给把宽带因特网带入一千零八十万家庭的TCL电缆线升级,6亿美元为服务于四百二十万家庭的线路升级。Time Warner花费40亿美元,Comcast花费12亿为它的宽带升级。

当前,一亿六百万家庭有电缆电视:其中四分之一的家庭可以通过电缆调制解调器获得因特网宽带通路。新的电缆调制解调器以每年一百万的速度安装,到1999年底,将有一百六十万电缆调制解调器订户,到2003年约达七百三十万。

2.电缆竞争者投资不同,但他们要求通过新的宽带网络与电缆消费者接近

美国在线和其它公司正要求法院及国会给予他们电缆公司网络通路。他们要求强制AT&T, Time Warner及其它电缆电视以客户付给电缆公司自己因特网服务商(如@Home, RoadRunner)同样的容量价格提供给他们的客户任一个因特网服务供应商(如AOL, Mindspring)提供的容量。

当电话公司,电缆公司及无线公司正致力于建造扩展宽带基础构造,AOL几乎没有投资于基础构造,1997年把它卖给了WORLDCOMAOL的市场资本总额比Chase Manhattan 银行或General Motors.多一千四百亿美元。这个数字足以使AOL创立自己的设备而不是要求政府强制其它公司让AOL使用他们的设备。

AOL, Mindspring及其它的服务提供者完全可以坐下来与电缆公司就包括电缆公司宽带提供在内的各条款进行协商,其实类似的协商在国家的许多地区都发生过AOL及其它公司不是协商一个大家认可的价格而想以他们可以命令的条件逼进国家最大的电缆宽带系统。他们称他们的计划为公开的通路 他们的游说群称之为"公开网络联合"这个术语用更适合的词就是"强制的通路"

3.,竞争不是垄断表现了宽带市场的特点

"公开网络联合"主张电缆公司准备支配高速居民因特网通路市场,但专家预测他们的优势在范围上受到限制并且不会长久。大多数电缆宽带被电视容量占用,剩下的必须和邻居共享。这就是为什么the @Home RoadRunner电缆调制解调器服务不允许他们的用户连续十分钟以上看流动的电视也是为什么@Home已经多次出现速度慢或服务中断的原因。

宽带电缆面临着来自数字订户线(DSL)的激烈竞争。数字订户线就是把传统的电话线转换成高速宽带线。到今年年底,SBC将向八百成居民提供DSL服务,向七百五十万居民提供BELLALTANTIC,到2002年,地方电话运行公司将拥有九千四百万电话线路,GTE也将有DSL

无线宽带,又一个电缆竞争者很可能向数百万乡村消费者提供优质服务。摩托罗拉公司预测到2005年全世界将有十亿无线用户。已经卷入95%美国家庭和几乎100%的商业的电业也准备进入宽带市场。电线比传统的电话调制解调器传输速度快接近50倍,但还有一些技术问题尚需解决。

美国因特网市场的电缆最终份额估计只能达到15%,远远不能达到垄断地位。 电缆公司将面临另外那85%的市场份额的艰难竞争。

4.电缆公司容纳每一个服务提供者或要求接近用户的入口在技术上是不可能的

因为电缆宽带是由无数个用户共享的。 太多的用户(特别象电视高宽带服务的用户)想在同一时间进入系统就会引起网络奇慢。电讯分析家在大会前证实过:

电缆网络是共享的网络。因为他们是共享的,所以当多个用户在线时很难控制每个用户使用的实际享用速度。@Home Road Runner从某种程度上能控制宽带分配,确保一些用户不独占整个管道致使其它用户不能用今天存在着这样一个问题:没有网络管理系统在网络负载的情况下许多服务提供商通过网络直接向终端用户提供服务时做带宽分配。很可能这样一个运行系统为电缆网络而被开发,但不在今天。

容纳强制通路的技术目前还不存在。最近用共有的通路做了两个实验, 一个在澳大利亚包括200个住宅,另一个在佛罗里达Clearwater包括一个服务提供者所准予的通路 。所含的操作范围太小不能证明强行通路的可行性。今天利用强行通路 也就是坚持电缆公司做现在不可能的事:向无限用户提供快速宽带通路。

5.强制用户将减少宽带系统的各类的投资,使各处消费者受损害

一个有效的经济系统,风险和酬劳共存。如果一个公司必须承担所有的风险,而酬劳却和它的竞争者共享。那么这个公司将不去承担风险。同样道理,如果最近在俄勒冈州的地方法院提出的强行通路在全国运用的话,结果是一样的。投资公司相信Suisse预测。

如果这个支配上升到国家标准,因特网宽带通路的部署很可能安装在电缆和ADSL边,影响天下每一个因特网公司。最大的赢家将是窄带服务提供者。特别是控制半数市场的AOL.。在这种情节下,最大的输家是每一个用户,因为国家的因特网宽带通路可能会被延时数年。

电缆和长途电话公司正将数十亿投向宽带只是因为他们相信他们可以合法地排除其它公司不劳而获离开他们的投资。如果强制通路变成全国的公共政策,这样的投资会干涸,普遍的住宅因特网高速通路将被无限延迟。


6.继续的依靠市场而不是新规则将确保因特网的自主和发展。

强制通路是不需要的。在电缆电视业和众多使用不同技术提供因特网高速通路的行业间竞争是激烈的。在这样的场合下,市场正努力吸引新的投资者制造新的组织形式,推低价格。没有政府干预的事。

强制通路将达不到预期目标。它将通过阻碍投资削弱为住宅和小型的商业客户服务的因特网宽带发展。强行通路会把多数重大的竞争压力转移到所有其它宽带服务提供商上。技术问题会使许多用户的因特网通路质量退化。

市场是正确的选择。强行通路的倡导者让我们在基于自愿的买家和卖家的自由的因特网市场和基于规则和政策公众效用模型间做选择。经验和共同的感觉告诉我们市场是我们脚下的路。

保持因特网的自由发展需要敏锐的判断和不犯相信自己的判断可以取代数百万因特网用户及企业家和投资者的智慧的自负错误的官员。那就意味着依靠市场而不是规则。

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Access to the Internet: Regulation or Markets?

Heartland Policy Study No. 92

Author: David B. Kopel
Published: The Heartland Institute 09/01/1999

Residential broadband access to the Internet is becoming a reality around the country as long-distance telephone and cable companies spend billions of dollars digitizing the nation's cable television network. Competition within the cable industry and among cable and providers of other broadband technologies is intense. Against this background, a group of Internet Service Providers, content providers, and local phone companies is demanding access to cable networks on terms as favorable as those that the cable companies offer to their own Internet affiliates and subsidiaries. Granting their demands would endanger future investments in broadband systems, pose insurmountable technical problems, and harm rather than benefit consumers.

1. Cable companies are making massive investments in broadband Internet access, setting off an explosion of innovation, competition, and growth.

"Broadband" refers to the ability of a single wire, cable, satellite dish, or antenna to carry several channels at the same time. This ability can greatly increase the quantity of data that can be transmitted and the speed it travels. Today, most Internet data move on a broadband network, but the "last mile" to a family's or small business' computer is on a narrowband, usually a dedicated phone line. This significantly reduces the speed that data can be received or sent.

Long distance telephone and cable companies are spending billions of dollars to convert the "last mile" to broadband. AT&T is spending $1.8 billion to upgrade the TCI cable lines to bring broadband Internet to 10.8 million homes, and $600 million to upgrade the lines serving 4.2 million MediaOne homes. Time Warner is spending $4 billion, and Comcast is spending $1.2 billion for its broadband upgrade.

Currently, 106 million homes have cable television; about a quarter of them can obtain broadband Internet access through a cable modem. New cable modems are being installed at the rate of one million per year. By the end of 1999, there will be about 1.6 million cable modem subscribers, and about 7.3 million by 2003.

2. Cable's competitors are not making similar investments, yet they demand access to cable's customers through the new broadband networks.

America Online and other companies are demanding in court and in Congress that they be given access to the networks of cable companies. They want AT&T, Time Warner, and other cable television companies to be forced to offer their customers content from any Internet Service Provider (e.g, AOL, Mindspring) for exactly the same price that customers pay for content from the cable companies' own Internet Service Providers (e.g, @Home, RoadRunner).

While telephone companies, cable television companies, and wireless companies are working to build and expand broadband infrastructure, AOL has invested little in infrastructure. In fact, in 1997 AOL sold its infrastructure to WorldCom. AOL's market capitalization is over $140 billion--larger than Chase Manhattan Bank or General Motors. This is surely large enough for AOL to construct its own facilities, rather than demanding that government force other companies to let AOL use their equipment.

AOL, Mindspring, and other ISPs are free to sit down with cable companies and negotiate terms to be included in the cable companies' broadband offerings. Such negotiations in fact are taking place in many areas of the country. But instead of negotiating an agreed-upon price, AOL and other companies want to force their way into the country's largest cable broadband systems on terms they get to dictate. They call their plan "Open Access," and their lobbying group calls itself the "OpenNet Coalition." This study uses the more appropriate term "Forced Access."

3. Competition, not monopoly, characterizes the broadband marketplace.

The OpenNet Coalition claims cable companies are poised to dominate the market for high-speed residential access to the Internet, but experts expect their dominance to be limited in scope and short-lived. Most of cable's bandwidth is taken up with television content, and what remains must be shared with neighbors. This is why the @Home and RoadRunner cable modem services do not allow their customers to watch more than 10 consecutive minutes of streaming video, and why @Home has experienced slow or interrupted service problems at various times already.

Broadband cable faces severe competition from Digital Subscriber Line (DSL), which converts traditional telephone lines into high-speed broadband lines. By the end of this year, SBC will make DSL service available to 8 million residences and Bell Atlantic to 7.5 million of its customers. By 2002, 94 million phone lines owned by Regional Bell Operating Companies and GTE will have DSL available.

Wireless broadband, another competitor to cable, is likely to be a superior service for millions of rural customers. Motorola predicts there will be one billion wireless users worldwide by the year 2005. Electric utilities, which already have wired access to 95 percent of American homes and to almost 100 percent of businesses, are also poised to enter the broadband market. Electric wires can transmit data nearly 50 times faster than conventional telephone modems, though some technical problems remain to be solved.

Cable's eventual share of the U.S. Internet market is expected to reach only about 15 percent. Far from being a monopoly, cable companies will face stiff competition from the other 85 percent of the market.

4. It is technically impossible for cable companies to accommodate every ISP or portal that demands access to their customers.

Because cable broadband is shared by multiple users, too many users trying to use the system at the same time (especially users of high-bandwidth services like video) cause the network to slow dramatically. As telecommunications analyst Anna-Maria Kovacs testified before Congress:

Cable networks are shared pipes. Because they are shared, it becomes difficult to control the actual speed any user will enjoy when multiple users are on-line. @Home and Road Runner are able to some extent to control bandwidth allocation, to ensure that a few customers do not hog the entire pipe and exclude all others. There is today no network management system that can do that bandwidth-allocation job when many ISPs are providing service over the cable network directly to the end user during periods when the network is carrying a full load. It is likely that such an operating system could be developed for cable networks, but it is not here today.

The technology to accommodate Forced Access does not presently exist. Two recent experiments with shared access--one in Australia involving 200 homes and the other in Clearwater, Florida involving access granted to a single ISP--involved scales of operation far too small to demonstrate the feasibility of Forced Access. To impose Forced Access today is to insist that cable companies do what is currently impossible: provide fast broadband access to an unlimited number of users.

5. Forced Access would reduce investments in all types of broadband systems, to the detriment of consumers everywhere.

In an efficient economic system, risk and reward go together. If one company is made to bear all the risks, but the rewards are shared with its competitors, the company will stop taking risks. This is exactly what would happen if Forced Access, as upheld recently by the District Court in Oregon, were imposed nationally. The investment firm Credit Suisse forecasts:

If this ruling were to escalate to a national level, the deployment of broadband Internet access is likely to stall on both the cable and the ADSL side, affecting every Internet company under the sun. The biggest winners would be the narrowband ISPs, especially AOL which controls half the market. Under this scenario, the biggest loser would be the average consumer, as the national deployment of broadband Internet access could be delayed by many years....

Cable and long-distance telephone companies are investing billions of dollars in broadband only because they believe they can legally exclude other companies from free-riding off their investments. Should Forced Access become public policy nationwide, such investments would dry up and widespread residential high-speed access to the Internet would be delayed indefinitely.

6. Continued reliance on markets, not new regulations, will insure the freedom and growth of the Internet.

Forced Access isn't necessary. Competition is intense within the cable television industry and among industries using different technologies to provide high-speed access to the Internet. In this instance, markets are working to attract new investors, produce new organizational forms, and drive down prices. There is no case for government intervention.

Forced Access would be counterproductive. It would cripple the growth of broadband Internet services for residential and small businesses customers by discouraging investment. Forced Access would remove the most important competitive pressure on all other broadband providers. And technical problems would degrade the quality of Internet access for many users.

Markets are the right choice. Advocates of Forced Access ask us to choose between a free-market Internet based on willing buyers and sellers, and a public utility model based on regulations and politics. Experience and common sense tell us that markets are the way to go.

Keeping the Internet free and growing requires that judges and elected officials not commit the fatal conceit of believing they can substitute their own judgment for the wisdom of millions of Internet users, entrepreneurs, and investors. That means relying on markets, not regulations.


Based on Heartland Policy Study #92, "Access to the Internet: Regulation or Markets?" by David B. Kopel. Printed copies are available from The Heartland Institute for $10.00 each. You can also download the full text, free of charge, in Adobe's PDF format; click here.

Copyright 1999 The Heartland Institute. Nothing in this Executive Summary should be construed as reflecting the views of The Heartland Institute, nor as an attempt to aid or hinder the passage of any legislation. Permission is hereby given to reprint or quote from this Executive Summary; please send tearsheets to The Heartland Institute, 19 South LaSalle Street, Suite 903, Chicago, Illinois 60603.

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