The house I grew up in was outside the reaches of cable television service, and to this day I could care less about having access to more than a handful of channels on my TV. When it comes to the advent of high-speed Internet, however, I must admit that I'm hooked. After using it since college, the thought of trying to journey on the information superhighway with anything less seems almost painful. Almost as painful, however, is the frustration that comes from dealing with the only available provider of the service. After a full year at my current residence, I've just about had it with the company that provides my cable and Internet service. Surprise fees, service blackouts, and phone calls urging me to upgrade to more expensive services I don't want have made it a less than satisfying experience. Still, if I want to continue surfing the Web over something other than a standard telephone line, I'm forced to take the bad with the good. Perhaps I shouldn't be surprised considering how it's a national corporation that, like many large cable companies, maintains a strict monopoly over their respective markets. Yes, it seems most officials at all levels of government are content to allow no more than one cable provider in any given area to operate. The three or four major communications companies that represent the majority of cable providers in the nation aren't actually competing against each other for the patronage of households, but rather the right to operate in certain regions. The result, as one can imagine, has not been good for the consumer. Half-hearted regulation has allowed these companies to inflate their rates in many cities and towns far beyond the amount their operational costs are increasing, while customers report further decline in their satisfaction with service. The only real competition for cable companies has been satellite, which has yet to offer competitive Internet service. I can't help but wonder who decides which companies operate in which towns, because if I had the ability to choose the cheaper service offered by more locally-oriented, independent cable and Internet providers, I'm almost certain I would. As we move further into the digital age, high speed Internet access is going to become increasingly essential, and it's high time the government, from the federal level all the way down to our town councils, made a serious attempt to break up the stranglehold that these large companies have on information and the infrastructure used to transmit it. Only then will so many of us be able to forego the take-it-or-leave-it mentality of big cable. Matt Bosley is an editor for Denton Publications. He can be reached at 873-6368 x216 or firstname.lastname@example.org.