David Strom

Imagine this: in 1776, the Founders of our country concluded that the most important means of communication—at that time the printing press—was so vital to the economic and political development of America that they decided to issue, along with the Declaration of Independence, a national office of printing presses that would supplant the existing free presses of the day.

Any free rational individual at the time would have risen up in opposition, justifiably accusing the founders of hypocrisy, and of setting up the conditions of tyranny by using a government-subsidized press to squeeze out the free and open media of the day. The revolutionaries would have first turned on their leaders, before taking on the British Redcoats.

Well, what was impossible then is becoming increasingly the reality today.

Not possible, you say, in America? Think again.

Municipalities across the country are setting up municipal wireless, cable, internet, and telephone systems to directly compete with those operating in the free market today. Already most cities “franchise” cable companies to provide exclusive cable access to homes within their jurisdictions, and were it not for off-air and satellite companies there would be no competition for your cable TV already. And in exchange for those franchises, municipalities routinely demand concessions such as cable-access channels, broadcast of municipal TV shows, and even sometimes outright bribes such as upgrading city streetscapes or other such nonsense.

In short, governments already have too much control over the means of communication.

The new trend, though, is to get into the business of communications services themselves. Several cities have set up municipal wireless systems—which have been largely huge financial failures—and now some are getting into the “fiber optic to the home” business.

These government-run, government-owned, or even government-licensed services are not just financially stupid, but in fact a direct threat to our liberties. Just as government-owned, government-subsidized, or government chartered newspapers would have appalled our founding fathers, the idea of giving over control to the government the most important means of communication in present-day America—telephones and internet access especially—should be repugnant to all who cherish liberty.

Imagine your email residing on government-controlled servers. Your purchase records, your phone records, your television watching habits—in fact, pretty much the most private and intimate information about you—being held directly in the hands of your local government officials.

David Strom

David Strom is the President of the Minnesota Free Market Institute. He hosts a weekly radio show on AM-1280 "The Patriot" in Minneapolis-St. Paul, available on podcast at Townhall.com.

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