We’re not #1 and it’s okay

Internet access is not a right. It is a privilege; one that we pay for. FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, while not explicitly demanding high-speed Internet access for all Americans did tip-toe toward that ledge in recent comments, in which he noted the importance of high-speed broadband Internet in economic development.

Pointing out that the United States ranks far behind several other nations in Internet speeds, Genachowski revealed a major goal outlined in the broadband plan–to provide speeds of 100 megabits per second (Mbps) to 100 million households by 2020. He noted that other countries have already benefited economically from national broadband, citing one example in China.

“Look at Shenzhen, China,” he said in his speech. “In the 1980s, it was a fishing center. Today, it is a city of 12 million that produces about 25 percent of the world’s cell phones.”

Sure, America is in a tight spot right now and economically speaking we might be experience less growth than China, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing and anyway do we really want to emulate China? Do we want the government to filter out websites it doesn’t like and throw bloggers in jail for talking about things it doesn’t want us to discuss? Do we want to erode property rights and contract law?

Genachowski seems to believe that Internet access is a root cause of prosperity, employment, and economic growth. While high-speed Internet access certainly improves the efficiency of job searches, information gathering, and advertising, the reason Internet technology has developed so quickly, become ingrained in our society, and dropped precipitously in price is because of competition and the freedom to experiment. Internet technology has become more available and cheaper precisely because it is not free.  The money consumers pour into the latest technological advances drives competition, innovation, and cost cutting. Simply demanding more access to broadband may result in  more folks having the Internet, but it will likely also bring innovation to a crawl or a grinding halt. As I have noted in previous posts the way to increase access to high-speed Internet it not through regulation and government intervention, but rather by protecting the rights of tech companies and allowing them the freedom to develop and market their products as they choose.

picture via China Blawg