President Obama is expected to visit Cedar Falls, Iowa, today to promote FCC plans to kill state laws that prevent cities from building their own wi-fi networks for residents.
It’s expected that he will talk in terms of Internet “freedom,” competition, access and economic investment.
According to a “fact” sheet issued by the White House, “Laws in 19 states—some specifically written by special interests trying to stifle new competitors—have held back broadband access and, with it, economic opportunity. Today, President Obama is announcing a new effort to support local choice in broadband, formally opposing measures that limit the range of options available to communities to spur expanded local broadband infrastructure, including ownership of networks.”
The bottom line, though, is that what Obama is pushing on people is government-run Internet and all that implies.
While there have been a few communities where competent local governments have built respectable community networks, available at more or less reasonable prices, most government-run Internet connections have been expensive failures.
It’s in the nature of governments to run up costs, delay projects and cut corners, so any notion that local legislators can provide a cutting-edge online experience seems far-fetched at best.
Part of making the Internet useful for a business, or even for a family, is providing up-to-date technology that takes advantage of the ever-changing features available on computers.
And since most people have phones, game consoles and other devices that access the Internet, any wi-fi system is going to have to be versatile across an ever-increasing number of platforms.
It’s not the sort of job that you want to give to the mayor’s cousin Bob who hooks up cable for a living.
Private companies have the expertise to set up such systems, but governments as a rule do not.
Competition between private companies is also the best method for keeping prices down.
The most likely result of any government telecommunications project will be fraud, wasting of taxpayer dollars and ultimately a frustrating failure. If such a network gets built at all, it will most likely be expensive and outmoded from the first day it’s made available.
Governments simply cannot keep up with the rapid change in telecommunications technology, raising the specter of entire communities being locked into wi-fi when the rest of the country has moved on to the next big communications leap.
Nineteen states isn’t even half the country, so maybe it doesn’t sound like a big deal, but what Obama is doing, once again, is taking it upon himself to override existing laws to promote his own agenda.
And in this case, it’s not even federal law but the laws of states that feel keeping local municipalities out of the Internet is the best way to promote economic growth and all those things Obama is thumping as talking points today.
Butcher a pig and you’ll find bacon. It’s a safe assumption that if Obama is getting involved in this issue, some of his campaign contributors will benefit.
It’s also a safe bet that he plans to get more control, more power out of this deal.
Bottom line, if Obama leaves his golf game to say something’s good for America, there’s no way it’s not bad.