Category Archives: Nanny state alert

Radio to the People

This week marked the anniversary of the announcement that the satellite radio firms Sirius and XM plan to merge, yet so far the companies have not been allowed to consummate the marriage. That’s because regulators are standing in the way, backed by well-heeled Washington lobbyists out to prove that ridiculous ideas still have an impact if they come with dollar-sign attachments.

For instance, the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) has spent more than US$4 million lobbying to convince regulators that the XM-Sirius deal would create a radio monopoly. That’s like arguing that the Kindle, Amazon’s new wireless reading device, is a monopoly because it is the only e-book reading device that can download books using EVDO (evolution-data optimized) technology so the user can read them immediately. Yet neither new way of enjoying books or radio excludes all others.

NAB’s claims don’t hold up to scrutiny, especially when they try to have it both ways. As the Pacific Research Institute’s Daniel Ballon has pointed out, “the NAB concocted an absurd notion of competition” with its statement that “Sirius and XM compete directly with us, but we don’t compete directly with them.” George Orwell savaged that kind of logic in his novels, and it does not belong in the debate halls of the most powerful nation in the world.

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The Quest to Neuter the Net

What do liberal House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Christian Coalition have in common? No, it’s not a penchant for government-funded jet rides — it’s a misguided belief about net neutrality, proposed rules that could affect the future of Internet management.

The net neutrality debate is basically a question of whether or not broadband service providers can manage their networks for quality of service and potentially charge more money for greater bandwidth use. That’s a pretty straightforward question, but it has been twisted by those who don’t want to see the Internet “change.”

Consider what that means. No change would mean the Internet stays exactly where it is: Speeds don’t get faster, and consumers don’t get more services. That’s a silly idea, but it appeals to those who think we are in the midst of some golden age that must be preserved.

What needs to happen instead is for normal market rules to be allowed to work — when goods get scarce, businesses are given incentives through market prices to produce more.Think about downloading videos, for instance. Anyone who has ever suffered a lengthy wait for a big file to download will want better-quality service and be willing to pay the provider. That only makes sense, but net neutrality proponents — in reality, partisans of Net regulation — say that Americans should be worried about the big, bad network providers.

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New Yorkers can’t walk and listen at the same time?

That’s what a state senator from Brooklyn seems to think. Sen. Carl Kruger is proposing to ban people from using an MP3 player, cell phone, Blackberry or any other electronic device while crossing the street in New York City and Buffalo. New Yorkers should be insulted by what this implies.