ObamaNet: Your Friendly Neighborhood Provider

After meeting their alleged goal of 7 million Obamacare enrollees, major progressive players like Susan Crawford have decided that nationalizing healthcare isn’t a big enough challenge. Now that the current administration has mastered the ability to have a functioning website, it’s time to move on to bigger and better things, such as creating a public option for the internet.

Susan Crawford (image from Twitter)

Susan Crawford (image from Twitter)

In an interview with the upstart online news source Vox, Crawford (former Special Assistant to President Obama on Science, Technology, and Innovation Policy) gives her argument for why a public option is needed for internet access. In a nutshell, Crawford poses the idea that America is behind the times in providing inexpensive and fast access to the Web to its citizens, citing statistics like Sweden’s blazing fast internet speeds at fractional prices compared to the US (the validity of which Tom Worstall calls into question in his article).

She goes on to explain that the private market has and will continue to provide substandard service in order to drive up profits, which will not serve the public good. Crawford claims quality service is only provided at high prices to the urban elite, leaving many Americans with the only choice of default service from their “local monopoly.”

So naturally, the only alternative is for a government takeover.

Excuse me, a “public option” rather. But what is the difference really? While Crawford claims that this service should be treated as a utility like electricity, the idea of subjecting internet service to utility regulation is far from historical comparison. According to Forbes.com, the US ranks in the top ten of quality broadband service worldwide, trailing densely populated countries like South Korea and Japan which do not deal with the extent of American rural living.

One valid concern about access to Internet is that monopolistic tendencies may keep competitive providers from allowing access for all. But rather than replace private enterprise that may show signs of monopolistic tendencies with a government monopoly, we should hold companies accountable to the standards that have been devised for exactly these types of situations. Inserting a public “option” into the marketplace will only skew prices and competition and – most importantly – stifle free-market innovation. We can do better.