It's been a depressing sort of day today. The weather doesn't help - light snow turning to freezing rain and sleet which is expected to continue well into the night and tomorrow morning; gray skies; and the daytime high once again below freezing, in an area where 48 or 50 degrees would be normal this time of year.
But then, practically wherever I looked, I found yet another case in which consumers are being taken for a ride, or citizens being denied basic protections of law, by the unscrupulous and greedy.-- banks, airlines, hotels, rent-a-cops, and others.
I'll explore several of the specifics in future posts, but want to begin today on the seemingly positive side, with the issue of "net neutrality."
I'm heartened by the recent FCC decision. It seems glaringly obvious to me that the internet has indeed become a utility, albeit not a traditional but a new one. As such, it should quite naturally be subject to a degree of government oversight and regulation.
It's actually true that Al Gore did not invent the internet. But neither did the big service providers who are now fighting for the right (in effect) to uncontrolled pricing.
Those who would argue that point, pleading instead for self-regulation, or scoffing at the need for any regulation, are of course those who stand to profit big from sticking their hands in your pocket. And though I'm heartened by the FCC's stand, I'm very disheartened by the realistic expectation that the profiteers will largely succeed in rolling back the FCC's ruling, even if they have to lie to do it. (Current ads in favor of what we might call "net discrimination" claim the future, under neutrality, hold "billions" in new taxes. In fact, no new taxes are proposed.)
It's disheartening, too, to realize the extent to which we the people continue to accept getting the short end of the stick, buying into such nonsensical concepts as trickle-down economics, or the disingenuous notion that consumer businesses are motivated by providing the consumer what he/she wants.
(Hey, aren't you loving the pachyderm insurance folks who tell us they started their business just so they could give us more service for less money? What Samaritans they!)
Oh, and a final blow to our self-esteem as consumers should be that "neutrality" is just a buzzword. It sounds good, but it disguises what's at stake. The "neutrality" battle didn't originate from either side's desire to offer consumers low prices. The cynic's view: It's a fight between two mammoths - the companies that create "content" and those who deliver it - over who will have the right to plunder our bank accounts first.
That said, I still think the FCC is on the right track.