The way that cable companies are marketing and pricing broadband has taken on a carnival-like feel. MediaOne Group realized the Internet's promise for a few lucky subscribers (of the company's 5 million), including me, during the first phase of the company's high-speed cable modem program. MediaOne Group was my cable company until I moved a 15-mile distance. For some time now, I have rued the day that I lost access to MediaOne Group's excellent developing broadband service to be left with Time Warner service. I expected to be in this situation for 2 more years before Time Warner trucks arrived in my neighborhood with cable modems. But recently, a letter arrived in the mail to inform me that MediaOne Group is replacing Time Warner and will be my new cable company. Again, I'll have broadband access—and sooner than I thought.

This development foreshadows the changes coming because of broadband-service consolidation. Yet at current prices, most people can't get true directional broadband service without paying $1000 per month. Without regulation, broadband is the snake oil of today's technology—something that is real for some cable customers, but imagined by most.