Column - The Internet should be considered a public good
Published: Thursday, April 5, 2012
Updated: Thursday, April 5, 2012 09:04
I remember being in an economics class a few years ago, pondering the definition of a public good. A radio signal, law enforcement, lighthouses, military and information are contained on that list of public consumption.
They are openly said to be items and services that do not diminish from others using them. One cannot restrict another’s use of the radio by using it him or herself. More importantly, these are goods that are paid for by taxation and fundamental to the establishment and prolonging worth of a society.
I propose that there is another item which should be included on this list, to be paid for by taxation and have unrestricted access: Internet.
Immediately, I can hear the grumble of those shouting, "privatization." I am not suggesting that private firms end their Internet-providing services. I do believe that they should be restricted to working within the higher bandwidth levels of usage.
The days of 56k modems are gone for most of us and we enjoy the luxury of entertainment providers and file sharing at an unbelievable rate from ten years ago. Today we may watch the majority of our television programs from a computer screen, or perhaps watch our Netflix movies streamed through a game system that is connected to millions of people worldwide.
The amount of bandwidth used to perform such actions can be costly and private firms flourish for the upkeep of such traffic. What about the transfer of news articles and emails? When was the last time you picked up a piece of paper and wrote to your friends and family? I know that it is a rare or special occasion that I use the mail service for correspondence. Email has not only become the preferred method of communication among our fast-paced society – it is borderline essential.
Cable television is a private good while public access is a public good. This is the sort of vision that I have for the usage of the Internet. When applying for a job, the Internet is necessary. When getting up-to-date news, communicating in our globalized world and completing the requirements of public education, the Internet is necessary. Getting the idea? The Internet is fundamental to public interaction and smooth transactions within our society.
If a service is required, should it not be provided to all within society, to ensure that we get what is needed? Should I be forced to purchase a product that is not manufactured? I do not believe so. I firmly believe that companies specializing in high bandwidth traffic must remain to provide private services but a "slow," unrestricted access to the World Wide Web should be made available to everyone within our society.
Who knows, maybe the day will come when Internet providers actually lower prices – when society realizes how cheap a service it really is.