Archive for the ‘private enterprise’ Tag

Canadian Company Set to Fill a Gap   Leave a comment

In case you don’t know it, Alaska is experiencing some financial difficulties. This is partially due to Saudi Arabia pumping oil like mad to corner the international market again. As soon as they get enough market share, expect the price of oil to go up, up, up again. This is also partially due to the Parnell administration’s insane giveaway to the oil companies (good Alaska SB21 for details), followed by a seriously uninformed vote by Alaskans to allow it to go forward. Alaska runs on oil and we are caught in a double whammy right now.

We have savings. We’re running a deficit, but unlike every other state in the union, we have savings accounts to turn an emergency in a soft bounce. But to make it all work, the State of Alaska has to cut costs, so among many other things we’re looking at is a reduction in ferry service in Southeast.

(NOTE – The entire western half of the state has no road system and relies on barges to get their goods to them. Southeast has had a special deal for a long time where they had subsidized ferry service, due in large part because our state capital is located there. They are not being treated unfairly. They are being asked to join the rest of the state in fixing a problem).

So, Prince Rupert won’t be seeing the Alaska Ferry very often in the next year. Once a week, most likely. That impacts their tourism because a lot of people go to Prince Rupert to access the ferry because it is cheaper than Bellingham and a lot of Canadians go to see Alaska via the Prince Rupert ferry station. Yes, the ferry station the Canadians were all up in arms about because US (federal) rules say US transportation projects must use American steel. And, yes, it is possible that fight is in the mix with decisions.

But ….

A private company is considering picking up the slack.

You see, if government gets out of the way, private companies will do it IF it needs to be done.

Thom Stark on Private Enterprise   5 comments

Thom Stark

Thom is back from his adventure, responding to my post from last week.


I think we’ve pretty well beaten the subject of who’s responsible for the American Civil War to a bloody, unrecognizable pulp. It seems clear that we fundamentally disagree on the issue: you see it as a product of Lincoln’s intransigence on secession, while I see it as the result of Southern bellicosity and the irrevocability of membership in the Union.

So be it. Let us agree that we will disagree, and move on.

The example you give of Federal heavy-handedness is an interesting one. I can’t and won’t defend the NTSB’s refusal to grant a waiver from its PTC requirement for the Fairbanks-Seward line, but I will note two things: first, that your complaint is really about bureaucratic inflexibility, rather than Federal power, and secondly, why aren’t your Senators and Representative using their influence to force the NTSB to be reasonable? That’s part of their job – and an important part, at that.

The thing that most struck me about your essay, however, was the way you dismissed the battle between Chattanooga and Comcast over gigabit Internet access. I think you have completely mischaracterized the conflict as Chattanooga “interfering” in Comcast and AT&T’s market. The fact is that neither Comcast nor AT&T had ANY plans to build out a fiber-based physical plant in the greater Chattanooga metropolitan area at the time when the city decided to build its own. Chattanooga practically begged both companies to build it for them, but they refused, citing high costs and lack of market demand (the same excuses cable companies and local incumbents have repeatedly used to justify not investing in local fiber networks across the country). The city fathers saw ubiquitous gigabit access to the Internet as a keystone in their effort to make Chattanooga a tech hub – and they were entirely correct about that – so they used Federal grant money to help them fund construction of a fiber-to-premises network of their own.

Now the network is in place, and (because the city has no obligation to funnel money into the pockets of shareholders) Chattanoogans have signed up for truly high-speed Internet access in throngs. As a result, Comcast is now fighting to keep from having to build out their own fiber network in the suburbs by getting the Tennessee legislature to forbid Chattanooga to offer to connect its MAN (Metropolitan Area Network) to fiber networks its suburbs want to build. It’s a case where private enterprise is purposefully ignoring market demand in order to avoid investing in fiber to the home, because short-term profits are, somehow, an Unquestioned Good, while supplying the market with the services its demanding is an Unnecessary Expense. And that’s ALL because of state-level protectionism and cronyism which have combined to prevent the entry of non-profit players into the broadband market.

And there, I think, is one major bone of contention between us on which, like the root cause of the American Civil War, we are unlikely ever to agree: you see private enterprise as automatically preferable to government-provided services, whereas I have no such philosophical romance with the ideal of free market capitalism. To me, capitalism is a tool that’s a lot like fire, in that it makes a useful and capable servant, but a poor and loathesome master. In this country, ever since the advent of Saint Reagan, deregulation of capitalism has acquired a talismanic status as an object of worship on the right. The problem I see is that the history of deregulation provides an uninterrupted series of examples of why it’s a Very Bad Idea. Inevitably, government deregulation has led not to a self-regulating marketplace, but to irresponsible gaming of the system for short-term profit, leading inevitably to market bubbles and general economic distress.

Lela Markham Davidson Ditch CorrectedNo less a deregulation cheerleader than Hank Greenspan has admitted that the Federal Reserve, in abdicating its responsibility for fiscal oversight, was ultimately responsible for the crash of 2008 – and that deregulated marketplaces do not, in fact, automagically self-regulate. Instead, they turn into a free-for-all environment where taking advantage of deregulation to generate short-term profits at the expense of individual corporate and marketplace stability is the rule, rather than the exception. Disaster, predictably, follows.

Private Industry Can Do It … if we let them   2 comments

Anchorage and Fairbanks, Alaska’s two largest cities, are connected by two highways, a train and airplanes, but it’s been a long time since there was regular bus service between the two cities. A couple of years ago a bus began running the long route down the Richardson and Glenn Highways, but now a new company is seeking to provide a similar service along the much shorter Parks Highway.

This is a good thing and, the article notes, it fits into the State’s Long Range Transportation Plan, but it’s not being done by the State of Alaska. Bus transportation is going to be a whole lot cheaper than the train or plane and best of all, the government is not subsidizing it.

Private industry is doing it because the State did not step in to do it and the need is there.

Funny how that works!

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