TCS Daily

A Reasonable Proposal: Owning the 'Last Mile'

By James K. Glassman - November 26, 2001 12:00 AM

FALLS VILLAGE, Conn.- The new, improved American Spectator magazine is being published just up the road, in Great Barrington, Mass., and the latest issue under editor Spencer Reiss, is excellent - and not just because it carries the interview that Nick Schulz and I did on TechCentralStation with Richard Perle, the national security expert. The cover story by military historian Victor Davis Hanson explains why western civilization, despite its generally pacific ways, has consistently (since the Greeks) produced the most awesome fighting machines. It's a must-read.

But the real gem is the piece by Andy Kessler on how to solve the broadband crisis. He strongly disagrees with the Bells, who want to gut the Telecom Act of 1996 and end regulation altogether. "The problem here," he writes, "is obvious: very few new players will enter the fray because no one else but the incumbents has the facilities or the money to make even the smallest dent.

"Worse, the incumbents, the Baby Bells, are monopolists. When you own a government-mandated monopoly, your programming models always output 'do nothing' to maximize returns in response to innovation or change." Exactly. So what to do?

Kessler begins with the premise that the public - that is "me and you and every homeowner" - should own the last mile. "Declare that the homeowner owns the connection between a home and a designated termination point - the existing telco central office, a neighborhood gateway, a digital loop carrier." He calls this an "asset grab" and says the legal precedent is the Homestead Act of 1862. But that was government land. Doesn't the last mile belong to the Bells?

Of course not. "One thing is for sure," Kessler writes. "We have paid for those dinky copper wires to our homes again and again - every five years is a good estimate." So the idea here is that, if you own the wire, you can contract with anyone you want (not just with the Bells) to provide service on it. Suddenly, there's competition - and widespread, cheap broadband access will follow.

A Reason to Celebrate

Just got in the mail the Reason Public Policy Institute's Plain English Guide No. 4, by Drs. Steven Schroeder, a meteorology expert at Texas A&M, and Kenneth Green, who runs Reason's environmental, health and safety program. The title is, "Reducing Global Warming Through Forestry and Agriculture." At this point, we're not sure global warming is a problem to begin with, but, if it is, forests and farms can "remove 35 percent of predicted carbon dioxide emissions from the atmosphere by 2050." Also, all the global emissions from fossil fuels and cement "could be stored in a temperate forest about the size of Minnesota."

Of course, the calamitologists who are pushing enactment of the Kyoto Protocol don't like carbon sequestration - on land or in the oceans. The real target of these reactionaries is the internal combustion engine. They don't like modernity and progress.

Mary Kay Ash, RIP

Mary Kay Ash, one of America's great entrepreneurs, died Thanksgiving Day at 83 in Dallas. She was 45 when she started a company (with just $5,000) to sell cosmetics through home and office demonstrations by sales reps - the best of whom were awarded pink Cadillacs. Last year, her company had sales of $1.2 billion through 850,000 representatives in 37 countries. (Even the U.S. Postal Service employs only 798,000 people.) Mary Kay mastered the art of incentives, pushing her reps to higher and higher sales. In addition to Cadillacs, she gave them vacations, jewels and furs worth about $6 million a year.

The New York Times said in her obituary: "Her unique public popularity engendered such enthusiasm during the company's annual seminar, a three-day multimillion-dollar extravaganza, that she often had to use little-know passageways to elude her fans. More than 35,000 sales representatives and directors and, in some years, professors from the Harvard Business School, paid to attend the education sessions."

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