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Comment Why the Last Mile Isn't Enough (Score 3, Informative) 172

I am a capitalist, but I have strong socialist tendencies when it comes to infrastructure. There are camps that would argue in a free society with little intervention from the government, the drive for wealth spurs innovation and that the market itself is a balancer between those that produce and those that consume.

To begin an argument that the internet, its infrastructure and its service providers on top, should be managed by the government begins by looking at another feat of the government arguably one of the greatest wonders of the modern era - the interstate highway system. Initial estimates cannot begin to measure how the interstate highway system has spawned billions if not trillions of dollars in the economic wealth of the United States. A system in which on every exit, capitalism is freely excercised as both large and small business take advantage of the rapid and ease of transportation. Yes, undoubtedly maintaining this infrastructure is quite expensive, but to allow private enterprise or even state governments to maintain such a critical asset to the American economy would only become a set back to the economic greatness of this country. Similarly, the next great advancement and opportunity for capitalism to spread is the internet and why the government should own this infrastructure and through taxation of public companies that benefit from its service make the internet free for all citizens.

My argument rests on the following points:

  • Companies that invest in this infrastructure want return on their investment similarly to the way pharmaceuticals demand patents rights for R&D dollars spent on the next breakthrough in medicine
  • Once companies have spent the billions of dollars in establishing the infrastructure they are less likely to invest additional dollars in improving that infrastructure
  • Companies whom own the rights to the infrastructure are reluctant to open up that infrastructure to potential competition
  • It is the duty of society to make this important communication mechanism available to all social/economic classes

As this infrastructure increases its important within the American economy it also becomes the target of cyber-thieves and terrorists. As such in order to protect the majority of society the need to ensure the internet infrastructure is safe from attack as well as to protect citizens from being exploited by clever thieves is an expensive burden that society must take. At the same time, the constitutional rights of citizens to use this as mechanism of freedom of speech must be maintained. Does privitization guarantee this safety? How does the government encourage innovation if there is no monetary incentive to do so?

Let us look at other examples in the world in which because of the privatization of our communication infrastructure the American economy has suffered at hands of other countries who don't have the baggage hindering innovation. Without a doubt our wireless infrastructure is this country is years behind the rest of the world such as China and Japan. Only recently as cellphones have begun to proliferate have large telecoms shifted gear and began investing in our wireless infrastructure mostly driven by technology created overseas. As this technology advances we still see limitations in service between telecom companies as simply driving across one's own city, you may experience outages and/or leave the area covered by your cell carriers service. Wouldn't it be nice if you could purchase a cellphone from any vendor of your choosing and it would function on any network? If the government owned this infrastructure it could force companies to adopt standards that favor consumers. Would we have digitial television had the government not forced the broadcast companies and television companies to adopt the new standard?

Companies have repeatedly demonstrated in the past the reluctance to spend money on infrastructure or innovation unless given authority by the government to monopolize such infrastructure. Case in point, the government did not fund the railroad system, but established taxation credits for those corporations who invested in this infrastructure and allowed these companies for several years to make billions by monopolizing the railroad system.

When the cost of maintaining the infrastructure and the social benefits of giving relatively free access (funded through taxation) to this infrastructure and to ensure fair and safe use of the infrastructure is far too great for one industry to bear this burden on its shoulders, the government should step in and ensure capitalism and fair competition can fleurish by distributing the burden of maintaining critical infrastructure to all citizens who may benefit from it. By socializing the internet, the government in essence is investing the economic future of the American economy. Much like the success of the interstate highway system which comprises a mere 1% of the total road system in America, a free and governed internet for its cost quickly repays in its contribution to advancement of capitalism as small and large business as well individuals use this new "highway system" to drive new innovative ideas and grow the economy.

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