In an interview on NPR’s Fresh Air, author Susan Crawford discussed why Verizon’s successful efforts to topple net neutrality put the US at a disadvantage. While Verizon has recently lobbied hard with the argument that the “Internet of things” is good for customers, Crawford demonstrates the ruling is not only a victory for greed, but a disaster for the American people.
Validity of arguments against cable monopolies
Crawford explains that in the early 2000s, the FCC operated under the premise that competition would keep cable companies from abusing prices. She points out that cable companies have turned into regional monopolies, which negates the competition argument.
As more Americans struggle to make basic payments, there’s no reasonable excuse for finding ways to jack up Internet bill costs.
Access to communications as a luxury item
One of the strongest arguments is that Internet access is no longer a luxury. The Internet is now the basis for millions of jobs and a primary source of technological information that people have come to depend on.
When the average American’s ability to function properly depends in part on Internet access, it’s clearly inequitable for cable companies to find new ways to charge poor customers.
The article points out that download speeds in other countries, even nations considered far less “livable” than the U.S., are starting to outpace domestic speeds. Given how much business depends on the Internet, this inequality of access provides a huge advantage to foreign economies.
In addition, Crawford observes that many government services and emergency resources are primarily accessible through the Internet.
What the interview missed
To some who didn’t grow up with the Internet, the debate may seem silly. But it speaks more to the short-sighted perspective of older American lawmakers who have little experience with technology.
Crawford could strengthen her argument by examining how outdated policies and wealth-biased politicians lack the background to fully grasp issues of Internet access.
Additionally, Crawford’s scope of solutions is somewhat limited. She argues greater government regulation is needed; however, without first dealing with the immense corruption encouraged by recent campaign finance laws, it will likely be difficult to enact effective regulation.
It’s fairly clear that Verizon and Comcast must have their financial power mitigated. It’s important to recognize them for the nascent monopolies they are. Crawford’s hopeful note about mayors looking at fiber optic infrastructure turns a blind eye to the anti-competitive measures making their way through many state legislatures right now.
In summary, Crawford offers many excellent points about how monopolistic cable companies focused on increasing profits could be sabotaging the American economy. It’s clear that national standards need to be established.
But with Verizon’s deep pockets and the weak intellectual capacity of most American politicians weak to deal with complex economic issues, it’s not clear whether net neutrality will ever be appropriately addressed.
As recent attempts by the government to control the Internet have shown, politicians fear the power of the Internet to remove them from office, which may create a further incentive to go along with Verizon’s program.