Thursday, August 06, 2015

Consumer Choice is Always Better Than Government Mandates

On August 4th, Jon Brodkin wrote an article about SandyNet, a municipal broadband network in Sandy, Oregon, and its transition from a fixed wireless network to a fiber network. The fixed wireless service offers 5 Mbps down and 1 Mbps up for $25/month, while the fiber network offers 100 Mbps down and 100 Mbps up for $40/month. Once the fiber network is fully constructed, consumers can no longer use the fixed wireless network.
Mr. Brodkin makes the following claim about the transition: “It also didn’t make sense to have a $25-per-month service compete against the new fiber service that started at $40 a month, even if the slowest fiber service was 20 times faster downstream and 100 times faster upstream.”
Essentially, Mr. Brodkin is suggesting that consumers are better off if the municipality requires everyone to use the fiber network. For an elderly couple, 5 Mbps might be sufficient for an occasional email. For a poor household, $25/month might be the maximum it is willing to pay for access. Why presume that it makes sense to require everyone to have a faster, more expensive service if they prefer, for whatever reason, a slower less expensive one?
Consumer choice is always better than government mandates – not just for the welfare of the individual consumer, but also for the welfare of the Sandy community.