Monopolistic control of internet costing you money and speed

When was the last time you felt happy about how your internet service provider treated you?

I can remember when dial-up connections were the norm being happy about the connection I could have to the world, even if that world only came into my house at 64 kilobits per second.

But since I’ve joined the adult world, the best memories I have of dealings with ISPs are when I’ve only had to wait on hold for a couple minutes before arguing with a customer “service” representative about why my bill has been manipulated without warning yet again.

My worst memories involve cable companies adding charges to my bill for services I never requested and don’t use; baiting and switching me with offers of cheaper service that turn into complex attempts to up-sell me; and fake promises to correct incorrect bills, which are of course never corrected.

To be fair, customer service is bad in many industries, especially ones where up-selling is a major part of their business model. But ISPs regularly rank among the worst of the worst in polls on customer service. That’s unsurprising given the fact that in vast swaths of the U.S., there are outright monopolies on broadband internet service.

If you want an internet connection fast enough to let you participate in the world today, you will have to pay someone for that connection. In most places — including here — you’re only going to have one real option for hardwired, fast internet.

In other countries around the world, they have figured out that the free market is the key to better internet service. Broadband prices are dirt cheap, internet speeds are blazing fast and people have much nicer things to say about their ISPs in many countries like the Netherlands, where government doesn’t allow a single business to hold a monopoly over your internet connection. Instead, multiple companies have the ability to lease the lines that connect to homes, allowing them to compete for customers.

Unsurprisingly, this drives down costs and shows just how much price gouging is going on in the U.S.

According to the economics database website numbeo.com, it costs between $10 and $39 per month in most European countries for a 10-megabit unlimited internet connection. In the U.S., the average price is around $52, according to numbeo.com, but I know I haven’t been able to get a price that cheap in years.

Meanwhile, the U.S. doesn’t even crack the top 10 in the world for internet speed. Fastmetrics.com says the average internet connection in the U.S. is 14.2 megabits per second. In many European countries, the average speed is around 16 or 17 megabits per second. In Sweden, the average connection is 19.1 megabits per second and the average cost for a 10-megabit connection is about $28 a month.

The U.S. invented the internet, and yet we’re now falling behind much of the developed world in our access to it, in part because we allow these unfair for-profit monopolies to persist.