Bridge Span 16-2: The Marketplace Delivers More Data

The Oxford Dictionary defines capitalism as “an economic and political system in which a country’s trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit, rather than by the state.”  A new poll on the topic from Harvard received some attention yesterday, garnering headlines about millennial’s view of capitalism. The poll is challenging to interpret given that most people likely have a connotative sense of capitalism, but helpfully Harvard dug a little deeper by interviewing a group of people regarding their view of capitalism.  As it turns out those who were wary of capitalism were not so much rejecting it but rather were concerned that today it seems unfair and leaves some people out.

One blog immediately opined in part, “It’s no surprise that a generation of people who grew up in the era of ‘everyone gets a trophy’ reject the idea of unequal rewards based on hard work. Millennials were educated largely by public schools obsessed with the idea of fairness and afraid in some cases to let children play the game of tag.”  In fact, the benefits of the marketplace are being returned in various ways, some of which were likely not considered by those polled.

Take just one example.  As announced yesterday Comcast will begin providing all of their customers in internet data trials a terabyte of data, more than triple what is offered now.  For extremely heavy users who want even more data, they will have options to increase the amount of data either in an unlimited way or in more discreet chunks.

Why the change?  The market reacted and Comcast responded.  Comcast listened to its customers and are exceeding their needs, given that most customers do not come close to using a terabyte of data in a month.  How much data is it in real terms?  Enough to watch more than 29 days straight, with no sleep, of HD video.  Enough for more 16 people to play online games for the entire month.

This follows a string of other announcements from Comcast including that subscribers will now be freed from having a “cable box,” but rather will be able to stream video to connected TV devices, such as a Roku box.  And last month Comcast announced the expansion of the Internet Essentials to include ConnectHome, a partnership with HUD to provide broadband for access for those with the greatest financial challenges.

The public is taking notice.  During earnings calls this week Comcast reported an increase of 53,000 new subscribers, a nine year record new subscribers during the first quarter of the year.

When examined individual by individual capitalism can be challenging if one thinks that regardless of one’s industry and talent that all should be monetarily equal.  However, if viewed appropriately,one can see that the marketplace works in delivering benefits to many when the marketplace has a demand.  Comcast has responded in offering data that is increasingly inexpensive and abundant, freeing consumers from the cost of a “cable box,” and still investing in our communities by providing the most needy with broadband.  This is the free market at work.

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