April 18, 2005
I'm From the Government, and I'm Here to Help

One of the darling projects of the new generation of high-tech elitist lefties is publicly funded broadband technologies. "Make the city pay for it! The state! The feds!" they cry, "only a Republican trying to ensure the Internet will be for the rich would oppose this!", all the while ignoring and then decrying the real implications of state-controlled media access. Basically, making the classic liberal mistake of not thinking past stage one:

"HB 3314, up for hearing in the Texas House State Affairs committee on Monday, would require the state to filter wireless internet access at highway rest stops. This bill mandates filtering at any state-provided wireless network on public property. Since last May, the Texas Department of Transportation has offered wifi access at state rest stops.

In a competitive market, an internet provider that decides to filter content succeeds or fails based on whether or not anyone wants filtered content. When the state provides access, the state controls access, and suddenly what you can and cannot see is determined by whomever happens to be the most successful group of busybodies this week*. Even worse, since there's no competing with "free" there will be no alternative. Well, not quite... people able to pay more will do so, and therefore get better access.

Which leads to the depressingly familiar yet willfully ignored consequence of any attempt to control a market through mandates: in an effort to "help" by gauranteeing results instead of providing incentives, the result of government action is ultimately less access for the poor with increased empowerment of the wealthy.

Keep that in mind the next time you think a government should spend its way out of a bind instead of providing tax breaks to allow the people to do it themselves.

* "Well, if we could just keep the fundies out of government it would work. The evil Republicans stack the deck to derail the project into a debate on censorship!" And just how long do you think it would take the people who brought us Ward Churchill and "college diversity" to impose filters on "hate speech", "exploitation", and "dangerous reactionaries"?

Posted by scott at April 18, 2005 08:42 AM

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I'm also concerned that we'll end up with a Wi-fi version of Minitel - an obsolete system that no one can afford to replace because it's subsidized by the government.

Posted by: Eric on April 18, 2005 12:04 PM
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