The High-Speed Data Game

by Andy Oram

Announcer: Ladies and Gentlemen, it's time once again for the game show at the top of all game shows, Fundamentally Confusing Criteria!

(Applause. Lights criss-crossing the stage. Swing music.)

Announcer: Our theme today is high-speed, digital data services. We have three contestants. And now, please welcome our Master of Confusion!

(Confetti and balloons fall from the ceiling. Whistles and cheers erupt from the studio audience as the MC walks onto the stage.)

MC: We've got lots of inquiries for you, today, folks, and maybe even some rulings, all on the program where billions of dollars in prizes are given out on every game.

(Shouts and applause from the audience.)

MC: You've been on this show a lot, Contestant #1. Tell us what you've been doing lately.
Contestant #1: Not much. Squirreling away my money for a rainy day. Upgrading a few lines here and there, in case they'll be useful for sending high-speed data.
MC: We're interested in those high-speed data lines, Contestant #1, and we might be getting you to upgrade a lot more of them!
Contestant #1: Gee, how'rya going to do that?
MC: How? Let's see!

(Spotlight on curtain. Drum roll.)

MC: We're going to give you relief from the law that says you have to offer these lines to competitors!

(Applause from audience. Upbeat music.)

Announcer: (Rapidly, in a low voice) Offer extended only in specified markets and geographic areas. Invalid where prohibited by law. U.S. Congress may change definitions and conditions at any time.
MC: Yes, just wait for a really long and wordy ruling where we show that the presence of competitors holds back competition! What do you think of that, Contestant #1?
Contestant #1: (blubbering) Aw, this is great, I should have kept around some of those competent employees. Gee, folks, I love America, you--
MC: Now, Contestant #2. How do you like those big prizes we gave you last time?
Contestant #2: They stink.

(Laughter and hoots from audience.)

MC: Hey, those were pure, unencumbered bands of spectrum we sold you!
Contestant #2: Well, I can't do anything with them. I can't figure out what kinds of data services to offer, and nobody wants them anyway. I built my whole business model around impulse buying, and people don't do that in a recession.
MC: If you can't use the spectrum, we'll be happy to take it back. But the last time we tried, we got the pants sued off of us.
Contestant #2: Oh, that's OK, we'll keep the prizes and go on playing. We figure we'll be in line to win big if the TV broadcasters ever have to give up a chunk of their spectrum.
MC: That's the spirit, Contestant #2!

(Applause. Drum salute.)

MC: Now, Contestant #3, you're pretty new to this show.
Contestant #3: I kept hearing about how much the other contestants were winning, and figured I'd better get my fanny down here or I'd be totally shut out.
MC: But we told you many years ago that you don't have to play this game, Contestant #3. Haven't the other contestants been sharing their prizes with you?
Contestant #3: Not really, no. I just never seem to get a hold of good lines or spectrum. Everybody talks about how you gotta spend money to earn money, but I find I gotta earn money to spend money.
MC: Careful, Contestant #3; this game is addictive. Once you start to play, you have to keep coming back! Is there anything special you've got your sights on?
Contestant #3: I was just hoping, maybe, you could let me operate my service in broader bands of spectrum, and set up a few rules to prevent congestion.
MC: We hear you, Contestant #3! On this show today, you may come out doing just that!


MC: But wait. . . there's a note from our crew. (Tears open the envelope.) Sorry, Contestant #3, some powerful bandwidth users are complaining that you'll interfere with them.
Contestant #3: I'll keep the power down, honest, you'll hardly be able to tell I'm there. . . .
MC: Well, we'll have to start the game with restrictions on that spectrum so you can't benefit from it, Contestant #3.

(Disappointed "Aw's" from audience.)

MC: Do you still want to play?
Contestant #3: Heck, if I don't win at this, I'll spend the rest of my career checking the logs on some other employer's web server. Sure, I guess I'll play.
MC: Well, now, let's start today's show. And remember what we tell you every time: the way to win this game is to rely on the free market!