Timothy M. Denton

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Real monopoly power

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Imagine a powerful life-extending drug, that also enables trained adepts to transport themselves and any arbitrarily large object, to any point in space. Move ten million tons of passengers and cargo to Epsilon Eridani? Tomorrow? No problem. No messing about with the speed of light. Just "fold space". And the drug is available only on one planet in the known world, Arrakis. You have guessed I am referring to Frank Herbert's Dune.

Imagine a substance with the combined worldwide value of cocaine and petroleum and you will have some idea of the power of melange.

And all the world's bandwidth, too.

Now that is my idea of real monopoly power. Dune continues to exert powerful charms. Psychoactive drugs, space travel, galactic empires: what's not to like? In Herbert's universe, the issue of excessive market power held by Baron Harkonnen is not solved by rational argument before well-meaning regulators. Nor are there any judicial appeals. The Emperor of the Known Universe, Shaddam IV, has a prison planet available for you should you lose on appeal, where life expectancy is short.

Here is Baron Harkonnen proposing his version of squeezing for (monopoly) profit to his nephew, the Beast Rabban.

Fortunately, appearing before the Canadian telecom regulator is a lot less fraught than the Emperor Shaddam the Fourth's last interview with the Navigators's Guild, where the Emperor is told in brutal terms he will spend his remaining days in a pain amplifier if he does not solve the problem of Arrakis and spice production immediately.

Speaking of life in a pain amplifier, I am reminded slightly of Raj Shoan's travails at the CRTC. Slightly. Very slightly. The chairman has done nothing but good for the Internet, and therefore the Canadian consumer. But working conditions must have approached pain amplifier levels for two well educated, well brought-up people to reach such a miserable state with each other.

The balm of peace and tranquility is badly needed at the Commission, I reckon. May it come soon.

 

 

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Timothy Denton is a lawyer by training who practices principally in telecommunications and Internet policy and domain name issues, with a strong concentration on explaining what the technology is and what it means.

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Guest Friday, 15 December 2017
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