The Economist: Network Neutrality Problems In The U.S.

http://www.economist.com/node/17800141

Isn’t the question of what is fair and reasonable for both the corporation and the citizen simply a question of “fair and balanced” regulation of those markets by elected officials?

If Communism’s complete control of an economy is a bad thing, isn’t it possible that a purely free and unregulated capitalist economy can be bad at some level, too?

Isn’t our political system some evidence of the benefits and righteousness of “checks and balances”, and that those checks and balances ought to extend to citizens and corporations alike?

So why this love affair by some with complete and total deregulation?

To expect “benevolent” corporations driven purely by profit, shareholder value, and led by people we don’t elect and can’t control to regulate themselves is, IMHO, dangerously naive. Where’s the proof that they have the proper incentive to put society’s collective long-term interests ahead of their own immediate personal gain?

History has proven to me that we can’t trust the people who run corporations to regulate themselves properly. (For an interesting treatment of incentives, I would recommend a book I’ve just started reading, Freakonomics. Pretty interesting and not what I was expecting.)

What confounds me so completely is how so many in the middle class appear so blindingly naive to the reality of unregulated corporations and the people who benefit from them. They seem blissful in their intentional ignorance and dismissal of the facts that insufficient regulation has proven again and again to be disastrous to our economy, our environment, and our safety. They cling to the false promises of trickle down economics and tax breaks for the wealthy, neither of which has ever worked and which still don’t, while the economic malaise of the last 10 years continues, unemployment remains high, and Wall Street bonuses are at record levels.

I don’t understand why some people warn against FCC regulations while, in the same breath, profess to completely and utterly trust these same companies to benevolently use their near-monopoly positions to do the right thing as they control not just *how* but even *what* we access. It’s crazy.

Monopolies are never good except for those who control them. Keeping monopolies from forming, and controlling companies who would gladly be a monopoly if they could, needs to be a function of government officials we elect and the people they then appoint to manage regulatory agencies. I trust those I can “fire” through frequent and regular elections – as badly corrupted as that process can and will continue to be without meaningful campaign finance reform and the repeal of the travesty that is the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling – much more so than the people running corporations whom I can’t fire and who see me only as a potential revenue source to be squeezed for maximum value on a financial quarter-by-quarter basis.

Those of us old enough to remember the break up of AT&T know what it meant for competition. Speaking only for myself, I believe I have that break up to thank for a career that includes working for companies who trace their very existence to the government stepping in and breaking up AT&T. Innovation comes from competition, not from monopoly. Competition is supposedly a cornerstone of free markets. I vigorously support that principle. I have spent the better part of my career helping companies to compete and win business, and hope to do so again soon.

However, the price we pay and the risk to us as citizens for that innovation needs to be part of the discussion. I really don’t think we can trust corporations to do anything more than what is best for their shareholders. That is, after all, the mission of a for-profit corporation. I have no problem or issue with that. I simply have been around enough CxOs, boards of directors, and a few angel investors and VCs to know that when it comes to choosing between money and people, money wins every time.

That’s not to say that these are bad people. It *is* to say that given free rein, the incentives built into our capitalist system drives these John Galts to thinking only about their own short-term personal gain and wealth even if it has to come at the expense of and to the detriment of everyone else.

All of today’s belly-aching by big corporations and their paid-for (mostly) GOP mouthpieces about needing to control their networks without government interference while they simultaneously don’t open those networks to competition is all the evidence I need to support greater and not less regulatory oversight of network access providers (some of whom I’d like to be working for right now).

What’s lacking, especially in the Democratic party, is political will. It takes political will to stand up to these corporations and to their terribly misguided, misinformed, and naive supporters in the middle class.

I’m more than a little surprised and happy to see The Economist essentially conclude the same thing when it comes to political will.

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