Libertarian, Left and Right Solution to an Open Internet

Most of my non-libertarian Internet friends reside on the left side of the political spectrum. For the most part, they are absolutely admirable with respect to ensuring that the Internet remains as unregulated as possible. We tend to agree that freedom is what makes the Internet work.

Since I left the Republican Party in the previous decade, one has to search hard to find areas where I agree with any sizeable amount of yellow ribbon sporting pachyderms. I love nothing more than stamping out expansive GOP tax rapes and even took Bush to bat in my latest mini-rant. It is just as easy to beat up on Repubs for being the bedroom police as it is for being the party of limited big government.

Russell Shaw titled his recent ZD-Net blog entry this way: “Are you a pro- ‘Open Internet?’ Libertarian or Republican? Better read this”

I read it and had to chew on it a bit. My knee-jerk reaction was to cuss him out for placing “Libertarian” and “Republican” on the same line. He wrote:

Reading my colleague Anne Broache’s excellent coverage of Tuesday’s net neutrality hearings before the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee, it is plain to see that those Committee Members who would prohibit broadband Internet service providers from imposing fees on bandwidth intensive services like, say, Google or Vonage are likely to be Democrats.

And those Committee Members who defend the practice or see no need for laws to prohibit it tend to be Republicans.

I read the referenced article and remembered conversations with one of the people quoted therein. Many moons ago, I was working a higher level position on a major GOP campaign in Virginia and someone called and asked if I’d take a paper position on the Kyle McSlarrow for Congress campaign. I don’t even remember the position offered, but it came with the typical invitations to fundraisers and similar events. At one of those events, I talked with McSlarrow about quite a few small government issues. At that time (he might have sold out since then — most Repubs did and I’ve not followed McSlarrow) he seemed pretty sincere. Broache provided the quote which got me thinking:

Nor do they plan to impede network activity, said Kyle McSlarrow, president and CEO of the National Cable and Telecommunications Association. He cautioned that putting network neutrality principles into law “may sound warm and fuzzy” but would in fact discourage development of new, more advanced networks.

Unfortunately for the GOP, George Allen (whom I also used to support) provided the generic Republican full-of-shit devoid-of-any-principle line:

“The point now is, right now we don’t have a problem,” said Sen. George Allen, a Virginia Republican. “Do you pass a law presently…or do you pass a law retroactively to try to put the genie back in the bottle?”

Let’s go back to Shaw. He provided two examples, Google and Vonage. Great examples, because they cover the extremes of how a free market will react to such a fee imposition. With the Google case the left, right, and libertarians can probably all agree. If Google is smart, it will tell any pipeline that wishes to add a surcharge to kiss off. End-users are not going to deal with ISPs that don’t carry Google — it’s that simple. It won’t take long for the marketplace to relegate companies that prohibit Google to the dust bin of Internet has-beens.

Vonage is more complicated — and such a move would cost me a lot on a project I’m negotiating at this moment. I’m currently in the process of purchasing 16 VoIP lines to handle the telecom needs of some new political clients. To apply the Clintonism, “I feel your pain.”

When my wife and I go out to eat, she often eats the Caesar salad while I order the thickest steak in the house. I don’t know anyone who would argue that my tab shouldn’t be higher than hers, as I’m the one consuming more resources. I also know that I can surf for porn all day and not even begin to approach the bandwidth of one VoIP line going 24/7. To some degree, it is fair for people to charge more if greater resources are exhausted in the effort.

A major culprit in this issue is government monopolies. A lot of the copper is still owned by corporations with no competition. There is no moral (or even pragmatic) reason for this to occur in the 21st century. I know that my friends on the left disapprove of such government-corporate incest. My suggestion to them is to look at the real problem, and not try to force a short-term solution which will eventually further restrict their freedoms.

Shaw provided the challenge:

Same if you are a Libertarian who doesn’t believe these laws are necessary. Do you really trust the telecoms and big cable to leave your Internet- our Internet, alone?

My response is that I don’t trust them. Not a damned bit. However, I have two real choices (as I can’t afford satellite latency problems) for home or small office bandwidth: a cable modem (one provider as proscribed by government) or DSL (several choices on one set of wiring pairs proscribed by government).

The obvious solution, for both the left and the right (and all the real people stuck suffering the consequences of the bull shit political games), is to get the government out of the picture altogether.

Stephen Gordon

I like tasteful cigars, private property, American whiskey, fast cars, hot women, pre-bailout Jeeps, fine dining, worthwhile literature, low taxes, original music, personal privacy and self-defense rights -- but not necessarily in this order.

6 Comments
  1. As a broadband user, I completely agree and would go one furthur and have us support smaller ISPs/telcos just to make sure they got big enough to compete on the same level as the others. Thats the only way there will be true competition for services.

  2. “As a broadband user, I completely agree and would go one furthur and have us support smaller ISPs/telcos just to make sure they got big enough to compete on the same level as the others. Thats the only way there will be true competition for services.”

    Unfortunately for some of us that isn’t an option. Adelphia Communications has a local monopoly in my area. They are the only high speed internet provider I could get. I wish there was another choice, just in case. For now, I get a lot of bang for my buck with them.

  3. This seems to impact on the communicability vs. variability issue that’s popped in my head in the past. AT&T was a government created monopoly. *Initially* speaking, when it fell, communications went down the crapper. It’s better now, mostly, but you still have cell-phones that charge you more if you talk to one person over another.

    Same here. An extremely easy resolution to the problem in my mind: Charge end-users for *bandwidth.* Let *them* choose how much they use. Leave the companies like Vonage & Google alone. Of course, *saying* it’s easy and making it work… two different things.

  4. However, I have two real choices (as I can’t afford satellite latency problems) for home or small office bandwidth: a cable modem (one provider as proscribed by government) or DSL (several choices on one set of wiring pairs proscribed by government).

    Before anyone else throws it in… we have a metropolitan area network consisting of WiFi… this is an alternative (not cheap) only as far as the datacenter which is presumably owned by a local company however the copper / fiber that is feeding that datacenter is owned by 1 company… no matter how many names are on it! It’s a crock and it is NOT open. Not at all.

    Government officials paying heed to this does not give me a warm fuzzy as the restrictions already imposed are their doing either directly or indirectly through corporate ownership and other ties.

    Awesome entry Stephen!

  5. Make certain you enable your business by purchasing from the smaller companies such as:

    Verizon / MCI

    Sprint / Nextel

    SBC / AT&T

    Don’t forget the new kid on the block Global Crossing!

    Woohoo bring on the monitoring! ;-)