President Biden on numerous occasions of late has complained about the miracle that one can simply drive to a McDonald’s in rural areas and gain free Wi-Fi access to the world’s information without even purchasing Internet service.
“It’s just not right. It’s not who we are,” he said on Monday when touting the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) component of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), which was passed in November and is more commonly called the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL). I’ve taken the BIL to task many times in the course of promoting growth-by-deregulation alternatives to the deaf ears of Congress.
That competition and markets increasingly blanket the world with goods and services of every sort—including smartphones and nationwide wireless and hotspot capability alongside the aforementioned free access at restaurants and libraries—is “just not right” to leaders of both parties. So, they want to “invest” (it’s never plain “spending”), with your money. That way, you cannot spend your devalued (by them) dollars on the inflated (by them) items you might prefer instead.
The consolidation of federal power reflected in the BIL and its ACP component is being escalated again in the looming passage of yet another bipartisan act of collusion, the Bipartisan Innovation Act. The BIL was recently touted in a major joint appearance by Biden and Republican Senator Rob Portman of Ohio.
I took a deep dive on the BIL, BIA, and the manner in which they undermine free enterprise and innovation in Forbes this week. The BIA continues an escalation of central planning embedded in Biden’s “Build Back Better” spending and regulatory initiatives and the broader “domestic forever wars” in which our political leaders have been engaging to expand the federal enterprise, so I won’t repeat those here.
But I remain struck by the arbitrariness of demanding “national plans” for this-or-that technology to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars. As one of many reminders that policy issues continue to resurface, once again, the rationale given for the Bipartisan Innovation Act and its billions in cronyism and special interest projects is that action is necessitated by threats posed by international competition. These projects will instead pauperize the public and reduce the wealth of the nation.
With respect to the “Affordable Connectivity Program” piece prominent in the news this week, the White House “Fact Sheet” boasts of how the administration has “secured commitments” from over 20 broadband providers “to either increase speeds or cut prices.” The ACP will entail “New grant programs providing tens of billions of dollars for broadband infrastructure construction” that “will require providers to offer affordable internet options.”
These boondoggles will be the modern equivalent of 19th century subsidized canals compared to what ought to have been. From these policy makers, we never get what sustained and expansive connectivity actually requires: deregulation and network liberalization, privatization and enhancement of property rights in network sectors, and creative rights-of-way evolution that enlists landowners. The approaches taken in the BIL and the BIA are why we can never actually have the much-touted Smart Cities, since their ownership status and management’s ability to call the shots will always be suspect.
Another problem is that large-scale enterprise will continue to be plagued with wealth-destroying and distortionary antitrust regulation that prevents network players across all sectors from becoming vastly larger and collaborating as needed. Policy makers who want “infrastructure” and “innovation” would do far better by repealing BIL, abandoning BIA, and abolishing the antitrust laws.
Government dominance of infrastructure will also leave the public increasingly vulnerable to censorship and surveillance; that’s another story, but it’s a related one that I’ve covered here.
These goings-on reminded me that 10 years ago—these issues resurface over and over again—I received a press release and letter from the group Public Knowledge touting a campaign in which they and others urged support of a “Bold National Broadband Plan.” Here we are again with the Biden/bipartisan “connectivity” plan. We have to try to have a little fun with these serious issues sometimes, so let’s consider again a Bold National Elevator Plan; below restate the case I made then.
The rationales are the same as all those other moves by the federal government to relieve the ordinary stresses of life faced by able-bodied adults. Too many Americans live in two-story homes or have basements, yet have no easy access to the upstairs bathroom and Halloween decorations in the attic, or to the aunt living up there. They are forced to rely on outdated “stairs” technology. (And stairs are dangerous! So this is far more urgent than broadband!)
We urgently need a bold new campaign to rectify this. Therefore I present again below my ever-so-slightly tweaked version of Public Knowledge letter.
Thanks to the generosity of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the new largess we anticipate from the Bipartisan Innovation Act, the Federal Conveyance Commission (FCC) will deliver its “National Elevator Plan for America” to Congress. The purpose of the plan is to ensure that every American home has affordable access to fast and reliable elevators, which large companies and office buildings have unfairly and exclusively enjoyed for decades.
Access to the second floor and basement is critical to ensuring that all Americans are able to fully participate in vertical rather than merely diagonal movement at home, not just in the workplace.
We have been working for many months to ensure that our National Elevator Plan is a bold one. We have filed extensive comments, testified at FCC workshops and met with FCC officials on numerous occasions during that time. Among other things, we urged the Commission to:
- Promote policies that would give consumers more choice among elevators and escalators.
- Ensure that universal service funds are used to increase access to elevators in rural areas. Not many of them asked for the elevators, but truly, what difference does that really make.
- Refrain from using the plan to enforce intellectual property claims in digital button and display technology. Ensure that elevators are neutral and do not discriminate unfairly between floors.
With just a month to go before the National Elevator Plan is delivered to Congress, we need your help to continue to advocate for affordable and robust vertical conveyance. Please sign on.
Public Conveyance, Inc.