Increasingly, corporations are pushing a deeply dangerous doctrine under various disguises, that they have a "right" to a profit. Not only that, but that this "right" supercedes other rights, like those of an individual to be secure in their home, as we've recently seen in municipalities using eminent domain to clear land for a mall. To say that this is pernicious is like saying that water is wet. And it is being used to defend a wide range of sleazy behaviors.
The latest round of this is that telecoms are suing municipalities for daring to build publicly funded internet access. Evidently there is something "wrong" with the city pursing the public good in a way that doesn't turn a profit.
This Slashdot piece provides more links and discussion.
To quote the Law.com piece:
Attorneys for telecommunications companies say the litigation is needed because municipalities with the ability to borrow money cheaply -- and not hobbled by the need to return a profit -- have unfair competitive advantages.
"Our position has never been that it is unlawful for cities to do this, but you can't use your powers as a city to create an uneven playing field," said David Goodnight in Stoel Rives' Seattle office, who has represented Qwest ... against cities in numerous suits...
Goodnight cited an association of Utah cities formed to promote the construction of a broadband networks in smaller cities and rural areas. "What we found during discovery was that the cities were providing facilities and personnel at no cost, interest-free loans and, in some instances, outright cash infusions," he said.
Yes, that's right. Since when is there anything wrong with that? Is is "unfair" for a city to allow a parks department to "borrow money cheaply", or to provide "facilities and personnel" to, say, the local schools?
Not everything in life is about profit. And profit is not some sacred thing above all others. I was pretty active in the politics of the internet through the mid-nineties as the telecoms constantly tried to get all the benefits of being providers of an essential service (the right to stop traffic at rush hour on a busy street to install new lines, favored access to government facilities, etc.) while constantly chipping away at their obligations, trying to create crippled, low-end offshoots to be the carriers of last resort, to prevent their being expected to provide trustworthy dialtone, to, more recently, not have to provide 911 services.
You don't get it both ways, boys and girls. Either telecom is a basic part of modern life, as essential function of the sort that government has not only a right but an obligation to see provided to the public at a reasonable cost in an accessible fashion, in which case it's entirely justified for them to respond aggressively to over twenty years of rising fees in a field defined by breathtakingly declining costs. Or telecom is a trivial and non-essential product, no more central to modern life than whiffle ball, in which case all of the past hundred-plus years of government implicit and explicit subsidies, from government funding to use of eminent domain, should not only end immediately, they should be repaid, ASAP.
I think that you know where I stand.