Democracy, internet, & S. 2195
Topics: Regulation, Subsidy
23 Jun 1994
Inouye is sponsoring a bill to 'allow' non-profits access to the NII.
Part of the justification is because it is good for democracy. Yuck, yuck.
Yeah, right. The rednecks of the world are all going to tune into
to alt.politics.libertarian to decide how to vote. This is like saying
MacNeil/Lehrer deserves government funding because it's good for democracy.
Even if we grant the claim makes sense in principle, in practice only
news junkies watch it. The poor subsidize the rich. Same goes for broader
internet access. If you don't have the time, money, or inclination to read a
newspaper, NII access to not going to do diddly.
I see People for the American Way is supporting it. So much for their
concept of protecting free speech. They have gone down the same tube
as the ACLU.
My real point here is just the economic one. For years people have gotten by
just fine without NII for living their lives. Now, along comes a tool that lets
some people do their jobs better (or simply have more fun). Some people find it
worth the cost and providers spring up. That's fine. But now the government
somehow finds a crypto-right in all of this. My gosh, people are using a new
tool, everyone must have it! Rubbish. Not everyone can use it. Just like in
the USPS debate, giving people a communication subsidy is merely giving them
money and forcing them to spend it where they don't want. If everyone gets a
$10/month internet connection, why not give them the cash and let the spend it
however they want? Internet, stamps, food, whatever? Of course, the situation
is worse than this because it isn't merely a subsidy to consumers from the tax
base but regulation on the providers that prevent them from being efficient, i.e.
some people who could really gain benefit are denied it because providers have to
charge more to cover the cost of regulation and 'free service'.