Friday, May 29, 2009

Videotron torments and choice in broadband markets (revised)

I wrote the original version of this post as a cautionary tale of miserable experiences with my mother's Quebec-based Videotron customer service. I related my personal story to broader concerns about lack of choice and competition in most broadband markets.

After I wrote it Videotron service did somewhat better. My original post was too one-sided. Things work differently in the old country.

Instead I wrote a technical summary of what I learned about managing a (Quebec) Videotron cable modem that's dropping connections.

There's one part of the original note I'll retain, and I expect to return this theme over the next few years. Most broadband markets in North America are increasingly served by only one or two providers. These at best oligopolies, and in many regions there's an effective monopoly.

This is a very bad thing for customers, and not such a good thing for employees who want to deliver good service. Oligopolies are corrosive. Always.

There's a role for government here. If we can't avoid oligopolies then we'll need regulation -- but that's a desperate solution. We need to encourage competition, even if that means breaking up companies that currently hold monopoly power.

Broadband is too important to become a part of a monopoly market.

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