Broadband as a Human Right (and a short list of other things I am entitled to on your dime)

by on October 14, 2009 · 46 comments

pay-upHey people. You owe me.  All of you.  You owe me free broadband.  I am entitled to it, after all. That seems to be where our current FCC is heading, anyway.  And hey, Finland’s just done it, and the supposed Silicon Valley capitalists at TechCrunch are giddy with delight about it.  We’re apparently all just Scandinavian socialists at heart now.

Thus, I too have decided to throw in the towel on the idea of everyone carrying their own weight and picking up their own tab.  So, get your wallets open and ready for me because I have lots and lots of things that I believe I have an inalienable right to receive free of charge from the government (i.e, “the people”;  i.e., “YOU”).   Please let me know which of the things on my high-tech wish list that you’ll be purchasing for me and I’ll check you off my registry so I don’t have to send the cops to your house to collect:

  • free broadband (fiber, Wi-Max, and whatever else is around the corner);
  • a couple of free new computers (and a really fast ones, thank you very much);
  • 3 new HDTVs for my home (including one of those sweet new DLP projectors that usually cost about $10,000 bucks.  And I’ll need you to pay for someone to help me install it. Or could you just come over and do that for me perhaps?);
  • 3 free new DVRs for each new TV set that you are buying me (and could I get a nice universal remote to control everything, please);
  • a free subscription in my area to either DirecTV, Cox Cable, or Verizon FIOS TV (with all the premium channels and sports packages… and don’t forget the Playboy Channel!);
  • a free lifetime subscription to Netflix (or I guess I would settle for a free Blu-Ray player and some free movies);
  • free new wi-fi router and signal extenders for my home (N-standard please, none of that B or G garbage… too slow for me);
  • free mobile phone service for life + an iPhone + unlimited downloads in their app store (oh, could you have that iPhone autographed by Steve Jobs if you get a chance?);
  • free Playstation or XBox + lots of games (and if I could get one of those driving wheels to play my new Gran Turismo game that would be dandy); and finally,
  • free lifetime tech support when all this crap breaks down.

In closing, I thank you for your generosity.  I mean, look, I know I don’t actually deserve any of this stuff, and that there’s no good reason that you should have to pay for my free-riding ways, and there’s obviously nothing in our Constitution to support all this, but hey… screw all that!  This is my God-given birthright. I am entitled, baby!  Now get busy thinking of how you are all going to start paying for me, you selfish bastards.

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  • http://blog.infinitemonkeysblog.com Jim_Lakely

    Very clever, Adam. I was laughing all the way.

    An excellent way to characterize the absurdity of the new “broadband entitlement.” I'm willing to go halvsies with you on a new XBox … as long as I can pick the games and you don't mind me hanging out at your house at all hours.

    So … we should follow the path of that powerhouse of economic liberty and vitality that is Finland. (Sigh … then imagine the sound of my head banging into a wall.)

  • http://www.facebook.com/adrian.salsgiver Adrian Salsgiver

    Free lifetime tech support when all this crap breaks down? When your call hardware they say it is software, then you call software and they say it is hardware – and when you get them both on the phone they say it is all your fault that their shit does not work. That is just how it is.

    Oh yeah, I am really gonna get FIOS and have a chip implanted into my brain so they can figure out in advance what TV shows I should watch. This is science. ;-)

  • dm

    Very clever? This japery was turning gray when the first municipal water system was introduced.

    It's kind of silly to make fun of Finland — which already is quite well connected, after all, and seems to be being quite successful at technological and design innovation — particularly in communications.

    it used to be that one didn't have a “right” to travel on roads. Now one does, mostly because roads are basically too cheap to meter — and free access to good roads make it cheaper to deliver goods, making the nation more productive, and all of us richer. I'm sure that when the tolls were torn down there was an Adam Thierer decrying the fact that people were no longer (literally) going to pull their own weight in transportation. Most large cities provide (residential) waste removal because it's basically too expensive to bother with metering (and there's the public health problem of trash that is improperly removed). (Ironically, technological advances may make both waste removal and roads easier to meter, and it might make sense to meter them.)

    Oh, I'm bemused by the Finnish move, too. But they're a wealthy country. They can afford it.

  • dm

    To elaborate a bit, 8% of Finland's GDP comes from telecommunications exports. Over a third of the population already has broadband service that exceeds the level they want to have spread to the entire population. This connectivity will raise the standard of living in Finland and will make it easier to make money — just as government-provided roads do.

    Also, Finland is in a recession, along with the rest of us. This is a “shovel ready” project that will benefit domestic Finnish companies while laying the foundations for economic growth in the future.

    I'm still bemused, but the more I look into it, the more common-sensical it appears.

  • skylights

    This is a great step forward for mankind. I hope other countries follow suit. Ah, I see you work for the Cato Institute and other Scaife-funded organizations which worship laissez-faire capitalism. Why all the communist imagery and symbolism, then?

  • http://srynas.blogspot.com/ Steve R.

    “Broadband as a Human” right is somewhat of a “red herring” in that the transmission of packets is being dissociated from the hardware. At the fundamental level, in order to use broadband, you still have to buy the hardware. I don't believe anyone is claiming a inalienable right to “free” hardware. So in buying the hardware, the ability to use broadband has been paid for. Over Against Monopoly, one post was Facilities fees: “That'll be $20 for the haircut and $10 for the chair”. So if you paid for it, then you should be entitled to use it. (Yes I realize that their are operational costs, that you must pay through your ISP subscription.)

    Also, if the citizens of a country collectively vote for “free broadband” then there is a valid entitlement. Also, remember that even if the service is “free” (paid by taxes), companies are still able to make money by providing the services and the equipment. So what is the big deal?

  • http://techliberation.com/author/berinszoka/ Berin Szoka

    Dude, it's IRONY!

  • http://harpandthistle.blogspot.com RLB

    You know who else liked Finland??? LOL

  • juliansanchez

    Eh. I think (1) this is indeed pretty silly, but (2) broadband has a plausible connection to the demands of 21st century education and democratic participation that HD flatscreens and Xboxes don't. So it's not at quite the same level of ridiculousness.

  • cryptozoologist

    i find your slippery slope argument to be less than convincing and i (really) believe that by allowing the discussion to devolve into reductio ad absurdium you diminish the cause of personal liberty. it really is no great stretch to equate internet connectivity to the system of roads, indeed it is often called the information superhighway. i am hopeful (confident even) that you would consider freedom of speech to be a human right. internet connectivity is a great facilitator of free speech and public discourse. just because it hasn't been around since the beginning of recorded history does not imply internet access is not a human right. suppose you personally were to be banned from the internet because, say you were found guilty in a court of law of using an image on your blog that you had not secured the proper rights to. perhaps then you might start thinking of that internet access as a human right.

  • http://twitter.com/bradweikel Brad Weikel

    The US Constitution is neither an exhaustive catalog of reasonable rights (legally or morally), nor a checklist for building a just and healthy society, and believing that spreading broadband access should be a national priority does not make me or anyone else a socialist (whatever that word actually means in the 21st century).

    This blunt-force ideological drivel really hurts the legitimacy of your occasionally thoughtful, nuanced posts.

  • dm

    One wonders if there will be a Lapp-top program to go with it?

    I suppose a country that straddles the Arctic Circle may also take into account the savings from a reduction in snow-removal costs — down to the level required by emergency vehicles and delivery trucks — if everyone can telecommute and shop from home. This bandwidth program might pay for itself.

    And finally, I look forward to a time when technology enables the realization of even Adam's lampooned dreams — when the contemporary equivalent of an Xbox can be delivered as easily as bandwith can be found in an urban setting.

  • mwendy

    Brad, by “spreading broadband” you mean expropriating access of unregulated, privately-owned facilities through government law or rule, right? In other words, taking their property. Sounds fishy (socialist?) to me – especially given that there isn't a problem.

    FDR's 2nd Bill of Rights on Steroids! Let the Rights collision begin.

  • dm

    Twaddle.

    Brad can speak for himself, but I think the word you're looking for isn't “socialism”, it's “investment”.

  • mwendy

    No, sorry, it's not.

  • Joshua

    Broadband access at the point of a gun. What we gain technologically we diminish morally.

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  • BD

    It's actually not irony at all.

    And Adam, by adding a single sentence:

    “That seems to be where our current FCC is heading, anyway.”

    You turned what could have been a semi-funny sarcastic post into another ridiculous slippery slope whinefest of the variety that claims that any attempt to regulate anything must put us on the path to socialism. I get enough of that s*** from cable.

  • http://techliberation.com/author/berinszoka/ Berin Szoka

    I was referring to our “communist imagery and symbolism.”

  • DRo

    Godwinned. Thread over.

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  • Brandon

    Free broadband? Lol! I missed the part of the Constitution that says that's a right. We don't NEED free broadband for moochers. It's a total myth to say that people in rural areas can't get a single broadband provider. And I'm pretty sure most of America's farmers make enough money from crop sales and a good chunk get subsidies from the gov't!!! And why does every poor person need BROADBAND?? Why not dialup, at the most? You can still do a lot with dialup or ISDN. Or even wireless Internet.

    This universal broadband movement is crap. Just more liberal big-gov't propaganda. We don't need EVERY person to have a service to become “competitive”, whatever the free-broadbanders mean by that, if they even mean what the term actually means. The private sector is doing fine! 10 years ago we couldn't have imagined how technologically advanced we've become in 2009! Plenty of people have broadband or dialup, and no one needs free Internet.

    At the very least, if poor folks are gonna get free broadband, they should have to pay a monthly user fee. If they can pay for a public option with premiums, they can pay for free Internet. No “free” handouts.

  • Brandon

    It's also a total myth that most Americans need access to broadband in order to survive. You can still get by fine without access to Internet. Sure, having broadband is great, but it's a LUXURY!!! The “importance” of it to being an American or being in the developed world does not make it more urgent that everyone have it. What about cars, food, electronics, healthcare, education, etc.? These socialists need to get their heads out of their asses. I'm only 22, and I'm still in college, but I didn't have access to broadband at home til I was like 21. I had dialup before then, and I didn't have a computer until I was like 12 or 13!!! But I got by just fine! I'd like to know where all these students are that “need” broadband access, esp. at home, to “do homework” or complete school projects.

    Julius Genachowski sounds like a Soviet commissar with all his “ambitious regulatory goals.” Does he not believe in free enterprise? Why does gov't need to direct all this crap and play on people's fears of a fictional “spectrum crisis”?

  • Brandon

    Free broadband? Lol! I missed the part of the Constitution that says that's a right. We don't NEED free broadband for moochers. It's a total myth to say that people in rural areas can't get a single broadband provider. And I'm pretty sure most of America's farmers make enough money from crop sales and a good chunk get subsidies from the gov't!!! And why does every poor person need BROADBAND?? Why not dialup, at the most? You can still do a lot with dialup or ISDN. Or even wireless Internet.

    This universal broadband movement is crap. Just more liberal big-gov't propaganda. We don't need EVERY person to have a service to become “competitive”, whatever the free-broadbanders mean by that, if they even mean what the term actually means. The private sector is doing fine! 10 years ago we couldn't have imagined how technologically advanced we've become in 2009! Plenty of people have broadband or dialup, and no one needs free Internet.

    At the very least, if poor folks are gonna get free broadband, they should have to pay a monthly user fee. If they can pay for a public option with premiums, they can pay for free Internet. No “free” handouts.

  • Brandon

    It's also a total myth that most Americans need access to broadband in order to survive. You can still get by fine without access to Internet. Sure, having broadband is great, but it's a LUXURY!!! The “importance” of it to being an American or being in the developed world does not make it more urgent that everyone have it. What about cars, food, electronics, healthcare, education, etc.? These socialists need to get their heads out of their asses. I'm only 22, and I'm still in college, but I didn't have access to broadband at home til I was like 21. I had dialup before then, and I didn't have a computer until I was like 12 or 13!!! But I got by just fine! I'd like to know where all these students are that “need” broadband access, esp. at home, to “do homework” or complete school projects.

    Julius Genachowski sounds like a Soviet commissar with all his “ambitious regulatory goals.” Does he not believe in free enterprise? Why does gov't need to direct all this crap and play on people's fears of a fictional “spectrum crisis”?

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