That’s probably not fair. A more accurate statement might be that some days I’m glad I don’t live in America.
Take telecommunications: Vodafone’s plans in the US required a coast-to-coast network. The UK-headquartered cellphone company looked around and realised there was simply no way to build one — it would be way too expensive — and there was not even one to acquire. It took Vodafone months to buy 18 different companies before it could offer a nationwide network.
Think about that for a moment. Eighteen different companies and their staff, with 18 hardware platforms, 18 telco networks, 18 human resource packages, 18 different ways of looking at the same issue.
What a nightmare.
Part of the problem is that the US is a federation of states. Each state feels it has a sovereign right, if not an outright obligation, to make its own rules. Fair enough, you might say, but when you slap a federal government over the top of that making different and sometimes outright contradictory laws, the whole thing becomes a steaming pile of red tape. Cable TV companies can’t become telcos without building networks — telcos can’t offer TV content because it’s a different medium and God forbid we should have two completely different types of bits travelling on the one pipe.
Now I read in the New York Times about Time Warner Cable refusing to carry advertisements for a DSL provider because they’re the enemy. It’s all a bit stupid, really. But it gets worse — DSL has yet to take off in the US for a number of reasons, not least of which is the tortuous path the telcos make wannabe DSL users walk on.
It goes like this: the user calls DSL provider demanding, “Give me DSL”. The DSL provider contacts the local loop owner who says, “That’ll take four to six weeks, thanks”. The local loop provider then contacts the user to install the splitter and test the lines, and so on. Any problems are then reported back to the DSL provider who works with the local loop provider to make it all work, even though the local loop provider doesn’t really want to be bothered with the whole thing. Eventually you may get hooked up, but only if you’re lucky. And, based on current form, the DSL provider may then go out of business.
In Australia it’s not much better — Telstra has consistently dragged its feet on installing DSL and only around 15,000 users are logged on there. Here the number of JetStream users rises by that amount every 10 minutes or so it seems. Once Clear starts offering its own DSL lines, and Telecom and Clear start offering other flavours of DSL like symmetrical or very-fast DSL, we’ll be in hog heaven. (Not that Telecom owning everything is ideal, either.)
Speaking of Telecom, I hear it is to spend $40 million rebranding its mobile phone division because people don’t like the name Telecom, according to The Evening Post. That’s right, $40 million. How many exchanges could be upgraded to become DSL-capable for that much money? How many minutes of free calling would that provide?
I have an alternative idea (presuming the Post report is accurate). It will make people love Telecom much more than they do now and it’ll only cost around half that amount.
Telecom gives me $20 million. I keep a paltry $1 million and the remaining $19 million would be split among all the people of New Zealand, at roughly $5 each. Enough to buy a Lotto ticket, anyway. I would then use my $1 million to ring everybody in New Zealand to tell them nice things about Telecom.
Just why I would do this is anyone’s guess. A helpful fellow IDGer, who shall remain nameless (Kirstin Mills), suggested I wouldn’t need to give money to all New Zealanders, just the ones who have a phone. That sounds great to me — say only half of New Zealand has a phone, that means $10 each, or I could phone everybody twice.
I really need a drink.