This article originally appeared in the 3.7.13 issue of Metroland
most obscene trend of our lifetime is this mania about free markets. It’s part of the racist tea party dogma, it’s
central to neocon dogma, it’s why we have a sequestration happening in
Washington. It’s why the wealth
inequality in this country is at an all time high. It’s why both Wall Street and homeless
shelters set records this week. It’s why
your net worth dropped at least 30% in the last 5 years. And it’s been orchestrated by cretins like
the Koch Brothers and rammed down our throats.
utter bullshit. Yes the law of supply
and demand is nice and symmetrical and it makes sense, but as any college
freshman econ student will explain, it only really works when there are many
undifferentiated sellers. When there’s
not, and there almost never is, there’s an unbalanced market and who gets
screwed? You, the buyers.
I got into
a nice scrape last week on Facebook with one of these free market tards, (or
freetards), when I posted a news item that some Republican running for governor
somewhere had on his platform that the internet should be treated like a public
utility. I thought, first, damn, this
guy gets it and second, what a refreshing thing for a Republican to be running
on, what with the usual crap the party spews about guns and vaginas and stuff.
message pops up “so, you’re for SOPA and PIPA, then?” The inference being that if the big bad
government is involved with the internet it will somehow wreck it. The market will handle it. Wrong.
this: public utilities, like the phone and power companies, are public
utilities because they provide things considered essential, because they use
public property (like streets) and because they tend to be natural monopolies,
and to the extent they’re not natural monopolies, they need supervision so they
operate in the public interest, which they would not do otherwise.
example, in 1934 Congress created the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”)
to oversee the telephone companies and declared that every citizen should be
hooked up to the phone system and charged reasonable rates. Very quickly, telephone lines went up across
America in places they hadn’t been before, particularly in remote areas and
small towns where providing cheap phone service was simply not profitable. Everybody paid the same rate for service,
with folks in densely populated areas generally subsidizing the service of
folks out in the boonies. And phone
companies were required to offer super-cheap “life-line” rates, which again are
subsidized by everybody else. In 1936,
Congress did the same thing for electric service with the Rural Electrification
virtually everyone in the country had at least the opportunity to have
reasonably priced phone service and electricity, even those for whom providing
this stuff was really expensive. Power
and phone companies have their operations and rates reviewed by regulators. Where technology allows something resembling
competition to take place, quasi-governmental institutions (like NYISO, which
runs the New York State power grid) have sprung up to mimic a marketplace while
maintaining enough control to protect the public. If all this were just left to the market,
lots of folks would still be talking to themselves in the dark. Or dead. And no one can seriously argue that these
initiatives, which have almost nothing to do with the free market and
everything to do with socialism, aren’t good things. Fantastic things.
past time for the same considerations to be applied to the internet. The market is not providing. Broadband internet is an essential of modern
life, of public safety, and economic growth.
And we’re getting reamed.
States is 29th
in the world both in terms of internet speed and
price. Freakin’ Bulgaria has better and
cheaper internet than we do. We are 19th
in the world in terms of broadband connectivity. And we invented the damn thing!
Why do we
suck so bad? Two words: market failure
. There is no real competition and our
government is controlled by the very corporations who are boning us with high
prices and crap service.
Western Massachusetts, suffering with slow and unreliable satellite internet
that costs me $150 a month. I have to be
careful of what I download and upload because my service is metered. It blows.
The state has some “public/private” thing going on that is supposedly running
broadband-ready fiber-optic cable along some of the main roads out here, with
the stated goal of bringing everyone wicked-fast internet. They’re saying the “last mile” part of this,
for those of use who don’t live on one of these main roads (which is most of
us), will be a big no problemo
there’s absolutely no specifics on, for instance, who is going to run the cable
two and a half miles up to my house and how it’s gonna get paid for.
optimistic. But I’m praying to be proven
wrong. But even if this sketchy little
initiative comes through, what about the rest of the country? Remember, this is Massachusetts over
here. We’re different. We went for George McGovern, for crying out
Paul Rapp is an
intellectual property attorney who maintains a hermit-like existence in the
mountainous wilds of Western Massachusetts.
He often goes days without meaningful human contact save that with his
so-called “friends” on various social media sites.