But in both cases, the incumbent sets the policies of the others. In the case of Earthlink, Time Warner has limited the upload Earthlink can offer its customers to 384 kbps. This is done so TW can offer better uploads to customers (512 and 1000 kbps).
In the case of DSL Extreme, AT&T does not allow them access to dry line DSL-DSLX can only offer lineshare.
If the FCC had truly allowed competition, then these two independents would be free to set their own customer policies, but instead the incumbents' attitude is: "it's my ball, so we'll play by my rules"
Also, practically speaking, the copper phone network was built back in the '40s and '50s and also with govt. incentives. The cable companies built their plants back in the '70s, when it was MUCH cheaper to do so (and municipal rules and policies were much less restrictive).
Not to mention that in many places, the capacity of the utility poles is maxed out, so new lines can't be attached to them. In most places, Verizon is having to replace copper cables with ones using thinner copper wires to get the weight capacity to add fiber to the poles.
Also, let's not forget that requiring the phone companies to lease their lines wholesale to competitors wasn't a 'gift'; instead it was part of an AGREEMENT they (the telcos) made (written into the Communications Act of 1996) that allowed them to enter the long distance business. Without that agreement, Southwestern Bell would NOT have been able to buy AT&T and Verizon would NOT have been able to buy MCI. The telcos got what THEY wanted, but when the quid pro quo was supposed to be given, instead they lobbied (read: BRIBED) the Republican (Powell) FCC majority then in place to not require them to uphold their part of the agreement.
In simpler terms, the telcos got their cake and gave nothing back in return.
I find it interesting that there are 5 FCC Commissioners and that EVERY anti-consumer FCC policy deuring the Bush years was approved by a vote of 3-2 (3 Republican FCC Commissioners vs 2 Democrat ones). In every case it was the 3 republican Commissioners voting to make the fat cats fatter while screwing the consumer!
Of course in the battle of the telcos vs the mom and pops, we KNEW who would win, didn't we?