After Reading this Article please go to this Petition and send the letter. I’ve done it and sent my concerns to the FCC as well as my local senators.
As a UT Austin communications alumnus, I’ve been following the development of the internet superhighway since 1996. I’ve never worried too much about it until recently because everything was going in a mostly positive direction. Also, there were bigger things to worry about such as how to make a living in the TV/Film industry after the collapse of the independent film market, and then came the issue of health care. But with the recent nomination and confirmation of republican favorite Ajit Pai, as FCC chairman, it’s time to worry…
Why? Because Pai has long been critical of regulation of the telecommunications market. He’s a “free market proponent” who favors a “light touch regulatory framework” for the telecom industry, which sounds like a good thing, seeing as how our western society is based on free market principles. But these are just labels and nothing more. 21st century Americans are, on average, fairly sophisticated and most realize that labels are often misleading.
For a quick primer on the issue, watch this PBS News Hour interview with Chairman Pai from April of this year. (It’s only about 7 minutes)
Chairman Pai’s main argument for deregulation is that the technology companies established in the 1990’s prospered because of the “light touch regulatory framework” that existed at the time. In other words, he’s saying we need to return to the framework that existed prior to the adoption of the new network neutrality rules. I’m not a fan of Ajit Pai and the republican path of broadband development in America. I think Pai’s statement is blatant misrepresentation. While individual sentences in his statements contain “Historical Truth”, the context is not adequate. Without a full context, it’s impossible to see that the overall argument falls down. If you look at his argument as a narrative, with a more complete understanding of the context of his case study, you can easily see the massive holes. With narratives, our brains automatically fill in the gaps with inaccurate assumptions to derive meaning from stories that neglect to provide needed information. It has been said, “The most effective lie is a half-truth”, and with this half-truth we’re encouraged to meander in the wrong direction, ending up with the wrong interpretation of reality. To put it another way, the story lacks “Narrative Truth”. The theory behind our western social system revolves around Truth, an ideal that is the means to the ends of rationality (rationality means fully educated on a subject). Information is the key to truth and rationality but here as is often the case with politicians and bureaucrats is that the information Pai gives in the PBS interview is accurate but not adequate. The historical information is accurate but without context, it’s not adequate for a rational discussion. I think politicians bank on exploiting our lack of access to information and they don’t have to try very hard because without adequate and accurate information we can’t use our natural ability to reason as we listen and try to separate fact from fiction (See “Advertising in Society” A: Hovland & Wilcox for the history on the conscept of rational mankind).
…the ideas that were of fundamental importance in justifying the new economic order were the notions that……man possessed reason and conscience, that men were born equal and endowed with certain fundamental rights – life, liberty, and property.
- Hovland & Wilcox pg 18
(BTW – The vernacular “Man” came from the 1400’s so “Man” = “Adult People”).
In a social system that rests on the “Rationality of Mankind” it’s necessary to have both adequate AND accurate information. Not either/or. Both conditions must be met. So, in order to mislead someone, all you have to do is leave out one of the conditions. The hopeful deregulators give us only a snapshot of a small corner of the big picture and we’re likely to miss-understand the full scope of the problem and can’t really gauge the effectiveness of their proposed plan. Those are the sciencey broad strokes. Here’s how they work in this case. The FCC rhetoric is intended to convince that deregulation will help citizens. This argument is misleading because its case study occurs at a point in time when the internet based information industry was an emerging market. At the time, it had not even been significantly monetized.
I remember the era well because I bought my first computer at the dell outlet store on research blvd. in 1996 for about 1,200 bucks when I started communications school at UT Austin. Our professors encouraged us to participate in the social media platforms (dial-up modem) and I became enamored by the possibilities as I sat at my desk (A.K.A upside down cardboard box) in the living room of my first apartment. During this time period that Mr. Pai holds high as the most relevant case study for deregulation, the information industry was in its primitive stage. Why does that matter? I’m glad you asked.
Very brief history lesson. In the mid 1970’s we officially moved into the “Information Age.” This took over from the “Industrial Age” which started one hundred years earlier in the 1870’s. Hello consumerism. The unplanned and unexpected consequences of consumerism was, the firms that were first to adopt the new technology were able to make a ton of money, grow their operation quickly and this created economies of scale. These economies of scale, in turn, erected barriers to entry making it impossible for the little guy to compete. Competition was eliminated. What was it that market system theory always said was required above all else to maintain social balance? …….According to Hovland and Wilcox, it was “atomism” (a.k.a competition); the very thing that died at the dawn of the industrial age. Fast forward 100 years. The same thing happened as we transitioned into the information age which was enabled by the rise of computers. Little guys like Jobs, Gates, and Dell got in before the existing mega companies could create barriers to entry. After that, the internet became monetized and the same thing happened again when the little dot com guys got in before giant companies could create the platforms that we now use for social media and streaming audio/video content. Last example: It happened many decades earlier in the film industry of the 1920’s when “The Majors”, who were the first to create distribution networks, made mad-cash, funding growth that created barriers to entry, securing their seat at the film industry oligopoly table.
(That’s four case studies that reliably predict the telecom majors will take action to create barriers for their competition given the opportunity. That, right there, presents the overwhelming evidence of market failure” that chairman Pai claims that he needs in order to preemptively regulate the market).
So, the point is this:
Who cares if the 90’s had a “light touch regulatory framework”. There were no barriers to entry. That situation has changed. The market has moved from its primitive stage into a fairly well developed stage which means that without regulation, today’s market will not respond the same way as it did in the 90’s.
Without regulation, the broadband market will follow every other post-industrial revolution, natural market in the U.S.; the structure will turn oligopolistic creating barriers to entry. If you look at the history of the relationship between buyers and sellers that goes back 500 years to England (advertising school), you’ll see that certain elements of the system design did not exactly pan out. Society had to figure out a way to deal with the ensuing conflict and it chose to do so, initially through common law, and later (in the U.S.) through federal regulation and statutory civil law. As a result, there is much precedent for regulating sellers to ensure the balance that would have been provided had the entire system not failed. The purpose of reasonable regulation is to restore balance by off-setting the market power situation that occurred as a result of the loss of atomism in the market. Net Neutrality will accomplish this balance restoration. Many Americans currently depend on this social balance (myself included) for our prosperity.
System failure is the key…forget individual market integrity. Check the history books Mr. Pai and you’ll find your overwhelming evidence.
Don’t misunderstand. I’m a firm believer in the market system. I think it’s brilliant. The problem is that when we lost atomism, we lost the mechanism that ensures opportunity and prosperity for all in a natural market (natural market = no regulation). What the republicans are suggesting, via the new FCC, is that we should return to laissez-faire. Here’s a little-known fact from advertising school: laissez-faire is NOT a tenet of the market system. It was a battle cry used by those who railed against the oppressive totalitarian government that controlled society in the middle ages. That’s prior to the advent of the market system which emerged out of the principles of classical liberalism. In 2017, in the U.S., we don’t have a totalitarian government. We have a democratic government with representatives at every level. The closest thing to a totalitarian regime that we have in this country is a cadre of individuals that comprise the decision-making bodies of the oligopolies. They actively manipulate society with their sights dead-set on the bottom line of a balance sheet. Mr. Pai and the republicans claim that Network Neutrality hampers the free market. On the contrary, it is in the interest of a free market that millions of Americans have asked Mr. Pai and the FCC to uphold their duty, continue to intercede in this precarious state of affairs, and prevent such totalitarian regimes from gaining a foothold.
The government is responsible for doing what it can to maintain balance in our society. Isn’t this one of the primary functions of governments in the west? In America this means to restoring balance so that all Americans have the opportunity to build prosperity.
Net Neutrality is about power to the people.
The alternative is power to the machines. Once they get it…they don’t ever give it up.
Here’s the petition link. Please sign it. The FCC is not required to follow public opinion but the petition also goes to our state senators who do work for us.