Virginia Postrel is blogging from a ranch near Zion National Park where she is enamored with the buffalo. She notes "There's no cell phone service, and very limited regular phone service at the resort. But they've got free wi-fi."
Granted, this is a resort. She is on vacation. Virginia is very technologically savvy. And, despite what she writes, the access is far from "free." Given these caveats, what does her comment tell us about the staying power of today's universal service policies? In other contexts, Zion was a citadel; it remains a term that refers to a heavenly or utopian place. Today's system can hardly be mentioned in the same paragraph as the term utopian. At the least, universal service policy must orient toward more alternative technologies, especially for the vast expanses of the American West, and get off of it's wireline focus. How can we do that? When we subsidize, target subsidies toward consumers not firms or technologies. People in places like Zion are well equipped to decide which technology - in some contexts, wireline out where the buffalo roam might be the answer - is best suited to the situation. Want to know more about the status of universal service and why reform is necessary? Look here.