Sunday, November 2, 2014

Monopolies on the one hand, and the Socialism Bogeyman on the other: Our Internet needs a New Deal

("Here Comes the Bogeyman," by Spanish painter Francisco Goya. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.)

Recent research has found what we all could have guessed: Compared to other nations, Americans are paying more for their Internet service, and getting less value. This is what happens, of course, when a nation buys into all the anti-government rhetoric of right-wing politicians, pundits, and talk show hosts--Corporate America rolls in and extracts the most money it can for the least amount of service.

The problem here is two-pronged: First, Internet providers have monopolies in their respective business areas. Second, we're so afraid of government intervention--the "Socialism" Bogeyman--that we'd rather let corporations empty our wallets for sub-par service than fix the problem with a little We the People action.

(In the video above, listen to President Franklin Roosevelt state, "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself--nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance." Unfortunately, too many Americans today--of all political persuasions--have given into fear: Afraid to raise taxes on the super-wealthy, afraid to hold white collar criminals accountable for their frauds, afraid to create a new public works program for the jobless, afraid to invest in our infrastructure, and so on. Original YouTube link here.) 

Some local governments are taking matters into their own hands, creating their own Internet services, and facilitating lower prices (see "America Pays More For Internet, Gets Slower Speeds, Than Other Countries"). Other local governments can't, because their state lawmakers have been given cash by the Internet industry to prevent them from doing so (see "South Carolina Latest State To Restrict Rural Internet Projects"). So, I guess you could say that government is indeed the problem and not the solution--when it's taking bribes cash from Corporate America.

The issue with today's Internet is very similar to the issue of electricity in rural areas during the 1930s. Corporate America didn't want to provide too much service to rural areas, but neither did they want the government to do so. Fortunately for our country, New Deal policymakers had the courage to muscle through the corporate opposition to create, for example, the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). And how is the TVA doing today? Well, it's doing very well; so good, in fact, that even conservatives are protective of it.

 (The WPA Theatre production of "Power" addressed the issue of public vs. private control of energy. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.)

America can learn lessons from FDR's "Fear Itself" speech & the success of the TVA, and give our Internet a New Deal boost. In other words, we could start paying less for more if we stopped trembling under our beds in fear of the Socialism Bogeyman.This doesn't mean that the private sector has no role to play, but it does mean that We the People should be more proactive when confronted with pathetic service or uncompetitive pricing.

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