Pennsylvania, a State Captured by the Telecomm Industry

Sascha very meticulously deconstructs the recent “victory” for the city of Philadelphia to continue with its free municipal wi-fi network, as part of a legislative compromise that still hands over control of future municipal wi-fi to the telcomm industry. After a couple of years, communities in Pennsylvania will be allowed to construct their own wi-fi networks only after they give first right of refusal to private telcomm companies.

The deal cut by Verizon and Philadelphia is a red herring — it detracts attention from the real issue — shouldn’t communities be allowed to choose the type of service they require. Instead, many communities will find themselves bogged down in red tape, having their local decision-making power trumped by a private industry. …

PA residents will be forced to pay more, receive inferior services (as Verizon’s history clearly documents), and have other options for application of their Community Wireless Network completely removed from the table. …

[T]his law means that you can’t change the regulations without the consent of the very industries that the regulations are supposed to regulate… anyone else find that a bit strange?

I guess I’m a little more cynical, but I don’t find it strange at all. This is just another example of the big lie of regulation and deregulation.

Not a single industry in the US wants to be truly deregulated — that is, they don’t want to exist in an economy that is utterly absent regulation. Rather, what industry wants is regulation that is constructed according to its needs and desires.

While the commonly accepted motive for regulation is to reign in “free market” forces in order to serve the public good, more often than not, this is not reality.

The point of most regulation is provide economic advantage to particular players, industries or companies at the disadvantage of others. Thus, in the case of this Pennsylvania wi-fi law, the regulation provides advantage to the telecomm industry at the disadvantage of municipalities and their citizens. It explicitly places the profits of Verizon as a higher priority than actual network access to residents.

The big media conglomerates may bitch and moan about the FCC, but if it weren’t for the monopolistic desires of RCA/NBC and the other big radio giants in the 1920s, there would be no FCC. They asked for it, they got it, primarily to drive out the educational, non-profit and amateur broadcasters which they accused of creating “chaos” on the airwaves.

As a result, the FCC is largely a captured, toothless regulatory body, which pays occasional lip service to the notion of public interest, but mostly resolves battles between players within the media and telecomm industries.

How else do you explain the NAB trying to push the FCC to regulate satellite radio more like broadcast radio, or the initiative of at least one broadcast TV company to get the FCC to regulate indecency on satellite TV?

What do these things have to do with the “free market” and deregulation? Nothing, absolutely nothing.

The telcomm and media industry need the FCC and state regulatory bodies to clear the path for their monster profits and strip mining of public assets like right-of-way and spectrum. They only cry deregulation when they can’t exert 100% control and they don’t get their way.

Show me a telecomm CEO who truly advocates the abolishment of the FCC, and I’ll show you a guy who’ll soon be out of a job.