Broadband: How And Where The GOP Lost It’s Way
Two bedrock principals of Republican ideology are state’s rights and free markets. However in the current landscape of corporate controlled broadband access, these two pillars are at odds. Many states have limited broadband choice by blocking competition and granting monopolies.
The Obama administration through the FCC seeks to improve competition by overturning state laws, but the GOP has been hostile to these efforts. Although the GOP could champion the banner of enhanced competition and free markets, they have chosen to raise the banner of states rights.
The Current State of Broadband
Given that the Internet was invented by the United States, (by Al Gore allegedly) one would expect us to have the best internet service. We were first to use and commercialize the service and most of the largest internet companies in the world are United States based. Unfortunately the United States lags in both speed and cost of access.
The Winners Globally
South Korea has the fastest Internet speed in the world (they need it for the world class Starcraft Tournaments). Speeds in the United States are not in the top ten globally and on some lists do not make the top 25. If internet speeds were the NFL, the United States would be the Oakland Raiders – a once proud franchise that has languished through the last decade or so. Our rankings in terms of cost are equally abysmal, landing around 15th on most lists.
Free Markets: A Good Solution For Broadband
The popular conservative solution to high prices and few options is to increase competition. Unfortunately broadband companies have purchased monopoly status from almost half the states. There are laws that ban competition, and some states have gone so far as to constrain the ability of cities and towns to setup their own networks. On top of that, the cable companies have (magically without any form of collusion that would run afoul of antitrust or price fixing laws) managed to find a way to not compete in most markets, leaving only one provider.
The Case for State’s Rights
The problem for conservatives is that to increase competition, the federal government must overrule the will of the states. To be clear the laws they would over turn are not popular laws that constituents voted for or the results of referendum, but laws that are the result of shady backroom deals in which broadband companies were able to purchase legislation at a much cheaper level, one state at a time.
In order to rectify this situation, the big bad federal government would have to come in with a heavy hand and crush the democratically enacted regulations imposed by state legislators. This is not something which an honest conservative would like to do but at the same time expanding competition, supporting upstart entrepreneurship, and opening markets seems like a bona fide conservative justification for the federal government to rear its head.
The Real Deal For the GOP
Unfortunately for many Republicans, hypocrisy trumps integrity and they will side with their conservative value that most suits them. The states right’s argument provides a cover for what they are really doing which is giving a handout to a few powerful corporations.
There are plenty of cases in which the current crop of Republicans are willing trample states rights for lesser reasons than upholding a bedrock conservative principal. Examples of hypocrisy that come to mind are Andy Harris (R MD) trying to block enactment of the DC referendum to legalize Marijuana, support for the Defense of Marriage Act, attacks on Oregon’s Death with Dignity law, just to name a few.
The take away here is that Republicans have no problem circumventing state’s rights to fight culture war. Perhap it is time that they did the same and stood up for choice and competition for consumers so that Internet which fuels an ungodly (bad choice of words?) amount of our economy can remain vibrant and benefit from free market principals.