Thursday, June 09, 2005

Democrats Invented the Internet...

...Republicans just oppose it.

Courtesy The Daily Kos, we hear that Pete Sessions (R-TX) has drafted a bill prohibiting municipalities from creating local wi-fi zones for their citizenry. Sessions, a former employee of Bell Labs, feels that such zones are unfair competition for private wi-fi companies. This isn't really true, the city would have to buy the coverage from one of those companies anyway, but they would probaby be able to negotiate a lower price.

This is one of those funny situations where a congressman's true allegiances are revealed. Most times, a congressman can justify a vote based on both some overarching principle--say, federalism--to dodge cries from opponents that he is providing special favors for a certain group. For example, Republicans often try and devolve environmental protection responsibilities to the state, which just "happens" to work to the benefit of big business. What a funny coincidence!

However, this bill appears to have absolutely no theory justification at all. It is explicitly anti-federalist--it creates a national policy and prohibits any locality from violating it. It is, on net, probably anti-business--cities believe that wi-fi hotspots can help spur business growth, a position which seems quite reasonable to me. It is economically inefficient--government can utilize economies of scale and thus save loads of money. The only justification here is a slavish devotion to big business--the folks who load Sessions' campaign coffers with wads of cash.

The net result is that cities are prohibited from using their own money to make their own citizens' lives better. I'm reminded of an action taken by the state legislature in Virginia, which prohibited counties in Northern Virginia from raising their own taxes to provide additional funding to local schools and roads--funding the state refused to allocate. That magic mix of paternalism and idiocy--it is present here too. And it unfortunately pervades the modern day Republican party.

On the other hand, it may crimp Justice Kennedy's use of that evil tool, so perhaps it isn't all bad after all!

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