Our ordinarily rock-solid electrical power supply has been interrupted several times these past many weeks. While we’ve experienced a long run with only the most brief flickers in the grid – the kind that requires that you reset the microwave clock but not persistent enough to go find and light a candle for illumination. But recently, we’ve encountered unexpected darkness for hours at a time. While it is fun to camp, I find that I miss the light (heat and internet, too).
Recently, the cable for television and internet access failed. For what seemed like an eternity, we were off the World Wide Web! What could be happening that we’d miss? Working cell phones kept us from departing to a more civilized homestead, I suppose. But it did remind us of our dependency on these centrally provided essentials. That night, our calls to Bright House would be answered by an automated attendant, and after a lengthy phone tree laden with questions about our account and language proficiency, the provider’s computer would promptly cut the call leaving us to start the process over. I imagined a world where one entity managed all communication. Could we lose television, the Internet and phone all at the same moment and without warning or hope of recourse? Without the duplicate and competitive cell phone company with whom we maintained an account, would we have been isolated?
Can the benefits imagined in a single point of contact for all essential services ever fully outweigh the risk in the event of failure (intended or not)? Does a single payer, single provider system work to increase our freedoms or restrict them? Somehow, monopolies, even benevolent government-sponsored ones, raise suspicion. In a world where our own mighty federal apparatus cannot create a working Website, are we foolish to even contemplate such consolidation?