Should the Wireless Carriers Be Nationalized?: Page 2

I’m against the nationalization of private industry by government. But enough is enough.
Posted September 19, 2012

Mike Elgan

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Many US customers have little to no choice in fixed broadband service providers. It’s usually a forced marriage with the cable TV company, which gouges customers with insanely high rates for mediocre service.

A super high-bandwidth, nationally provisioned mobile broadband system would offer home and business Internet connectivity to take place via mobile broadband, and thus offer a competitive alternative to local cable monopolies.

Why Nationalizing the Carriers Is a Bad Idea

Of course, the nationalization of wireless carriers is very, very unlikely. For starters, the carriers are extremely “generous” when it comes to contributing to political campaigns.

AT&T, for example, is the largest private industry contributor in the country. The carriers’ golf buddies in Congress are unlikely to vote against their friends.

Second, the polarized political climate would make it nearly impossible to gain widespread public support. “Nationalization” is a dirty word -- and should be -- but the reflexive, dogmatic political thinking that dominates politics now would prevent any significant number of politicians from even considering this idea out loud. (It’s worth pointing out that the same thing would happen if we were to try and start a national space program today -- it would never happen.)

Third, the privacy watchdogs would oppose it, believing that if the government controlled the wireless Internet, they would be able to snoop on citizens. (The reality is that they do so already, and hide behind the cover of the private companies -- the Freedom of Information Act doesn’t apply to AT&T.)

And fourth, even rational, open-minded people might rightly observe that government is incapable of keeping up with technology or running organizations efficiently.

Here’s How to Do It

One way for this nationalization to take place would be for Congress to pass a law that simultaneously privatizes the Postal Service and nationalizes wireless carriers.

An alternative would be to keep the post office: Congress could pass a law that defines all electronic traffic conveyed over the public airwaves as “mail.” That would make the Constitutional mandate apply to wireless.

(Hey, if a tattoo can be ruled Constitutionally protected “speech,” then wireless data packets can be ruled “mail.”)

Internationally competitive mobile broadband should be mandated by law. Phone contracts should be banned, and all wireless service should be paid for monthly at national rates.

All mobile handsets should be sold unlocked, so they can compete with each other on actual price, rather than on the financial might of the handset maker (cough) Apple! (cough).

Net neutrality should be part of the Constitutional amendment, or “Wireless Nationalization Act of 2012” or whatever they would call it.

Customers paying for unlimited data would actually get unlimited data regardless of whether they want to use it during peak hours, and regardless of whether they want to use it for things like FaceTime.

Nationalizing the wireless carriers is obviously a bad idea. But sometimes I wonder whether the current situation is even worse.

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Tags: wireless, mobile

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