Customer-Built Network Infrastructures

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Customer-build network infrastructures, by Clay Shirky

“According to Metcalfe's Law, the value of an internet connection rises with the number of users on the network. However, the phone companies do not get to raise their prices in return for that increase in value. This is a matter of considerable frustration to them. The economic logic of the market suggests that capital should be invested by whoever captures the value of the investment. The telephone companies are using that argument to suggest that they should either be given monopoly pricing power over the last mile, or that they should be allowed to vertically integrate content with conduit. Either strategy would allow them to raise prices by locking out the competition, thus restoring their coercive power over the customer and helping them extract new revenues from their internet subscribers. However, a second possibility has appeared. If the economics of internet connectivity lets the user rather than the network operator capture the residual value of the network, the economics likewise suggest that the user should be the builder and owner of the network infrastructure." The creation of the fax network was the first time this happened, but it won't be the last. WiFi hubs and VoIP adapters allow the users to build out the edges of the network without needing to ask the phone companies for either help or permission. Thanks to the move from analog to digital networks, the telephone companies' most significant competition is now their customers, because if the customer can buy a simple device that makes wireless connectivity or IP phone calls possible, then anything the phone companies offer by way of competition is nothing more than the latest version of ZapMail. “ (