Kevin Drum’s looking for examples of ways we’ve become more and less free over the decades in our everyday lives. One thing he misses is a change that happened when I was too young to appreciate it — you started being able to own your own telephone.
It used to be that if you wanted access to AT&T’s network, you had a lease a phone from AT&T. After the breakup of the Ma Bell monopoly, that system became unviable. Instead of leasing a phone from a monopoly provider, you bought a phone on a competitive market, which was much cheaper and allowed for more diversity in phone styles and technologies. Every once in a while some oldster who never made the switch surfaces and we get a newspaper article about the change.
Today, Internet service providers try to run the same scam of exploiting their quasi-monopoly control of the network to try to entice you into overspending on leased equipment (cable modem and Wi-Fi router) that you could buy more cheaply on the competitive market. If I ran the FCC, I think I’d try to put a stop to that. But at a minimum, current regulations don’t let Comcast force you to lease ancillary equipment from them.