Good News, Bad News

19Oct06

First the good news: Over at Save the Internet.com they think that “…we’re on the verge of toppling one of the most powerful lobbies in Washington.” The “we” in this statement is the public movement that has arisen to insist on a Net Neutrality component in the telcom reform bill under consideration in Congress.

That’s very good to hear. The Internet is one of the primary examples of what new commons can do for society and the economy. The Internet is becoming as vital as the public roads and public schools in providing opportunities and resources for Americans. So long as we can defend and strengthen equality of access to the Internet, we won’t be doing too terribly.

The bad news comes from the same article. “Phone and cable companies have spent more than $100 million on lobbyists, Astroturf groups, political campaigns and PR firms.” We can expect them to spend more before the fight is over.

In the branch of economics known as Public Choice theory, this kind of behavior is known as “rent seeking.” Rent seeking is the expenditure of time, effort and resources into getting freebies from the government, as opposed to putting time, effort and resources into making some kind of actual contribution to the economy.

Now, on one hand it is very encouraging if we the people are able to turn back this sort of effort by the telecoms. But the power of the idea of rent seeking is the realization that a lot of time and effort is wasted in these sorts of fights, no matter which group wins or loses.

Don’t get me wrong; we have to win this fight and it’s a fight we didn’t choose. But what a shame and a loss that some of the most profitable corporations in America prefer to spend their money lobbying for the legal right to charge monopoly prices for Internet access, rather than investing in the actual digital infrastructure that enriches them and us. To me it suggests that we could be better off placing the digital infrastructure in the hands of a publicly-operated utility. I’m certainly willing to hear that argument.

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2 Responses to “Good News, Bad News”

  1. this one post very good. i enjoy very much!

  2. Thanks, banshee. It’s always nice to know that I’ve made someone happy.


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