Gary Thornock gthornock at
Wed Aug 22 17:54:08 MDT 2007

--- Andrew McNabb <amcnabb at> wrote:
> On Wed, Aug 22, 2007 at 11:55:34AM -0600, Jeremy Hansen wrote:
>> I think you're confusing necessity with convenience.
> There's an entire spectrum that covers various levels of
> convenience.  My brother went many months without any telephone
> access in his apartment.  He saw it as foregoing a convenience.
> It definitely made things very inconvenient at times.
> Even more inconvenient is electricity, water, and gas.  None of
> these is _strictly_ a necessity, but I feel comfortable calling
> them necessities because the degree of inconvenience is high
> enough.

I've been without electricity or running water before.  That
sort of thing happens sometimes when you're a missionary in a
third-world country.  I've been in towns where even the *phone
company* didn't have a working phone -- all they had was a
telegraph; if you needed more than that, there was a phone about
an hour away by bus, or you *might* be able to persuade the army
to let you use their radio phone.  From that perspective, none of
those things are "essential".

With that said, however, all of those things, except maybe the
telephone, are fairly important to the process of getting along
in this society at this time.  I'd argue that (for me, at least)
good internet access is actually *more* important than the

The problem becomes somewhat more complex where companies like
Comcast are involved.  By one argument, as a private company,
they should legally be able to do what they want, and their
customers may then "vote with their wallets".  That doesn't fly,
though, because Comcast isn't altogether a private company.  It's
a public utility, which has received and continues to receive
special benefits provided by government -- easements, rights
of way and sometimes support with actual tax dollars.  Those
benefits equate to a significant barrier to entry to competition,
thus providing Comcast with, in effect, a government-supported
monopoly (or, at least, a cartel of a small number of providers).
Those benefits are, at least in theory, supposed to be offset by
the benefit to the public that comes from Comcast's services.

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