Regulation and progress are inverse siblings. On September 12th, Fortune.com published an article concerning the brewing regulatory battle between the Federal Communications Commission and data/tech giants Verizon and AT&T. At one end of the ring stands represented a classic sentiment in socioeconomic philosophy, infamously forged in an era of loud, dirty expansion, and at the other an inborn and introverted tendency towards unfettered growth, a natural evolutionary ambition that has come to be known as “greed.” The ethereal “data” and its largest keepers, Dear Reader, will be this century’s Standard Oil.
Essentially, the focal point around which the topics encountered in this article orbit is the idea of whether or not the individual consumer is being given a choice. Another secondary consideration is that of competition in tech capital, whether or not opportunities exist for David to wield an effective slingshot, but I believe that topic to be mostly secondary in importance and chronology. As Mr. Aaron Pressman writes, we come to understand that both Verizon and AT&T are either manipulating loopholes within the FCC’s regulatory code or completely disregarding it, in an attempt to do what businesses do best: make money. By making allowance for their subscribers to indulge in certain subsidiary or contracted video venues without expending their data, (“zero-rating,” as it’s called) these two companies are simply helping to ensure that they retain a loyal base. Critics of these policies on the part of Verizon and AT&T insist that the FCC take action, apparently alleging that the entities are in violation of federal laws or regulations. The FCC has yet to take an official stand on either side of the issue, but still they continue to “monitor” the developments closely.
It would befit each one of us to consider the practical implications of this fight. Despite the obvious corporate behemoths that Verizon and AT&T exist as, and regardless of whatever cronyism they might possibly be engaged in or lobbying connections they may have, the individual consumer still has a choice. Conversely, the more power that is given to a supposedly objective and representative regulatory body, the less choices a consumer will end up having, to say nothing of the quality. Setting aside some of the obvious and more reasonable aspects of actual antitrust arguments, the reality is that nobody needs to purchase services from Verizon if they don’t want to. They can go elsewhere. If one wants quality, then they know what lanes to look down, but if they really want to stoke competition, then they can help the underdogs by purchasing their services. This is a basic tenet of the progress that is free market capitalism. Verizon and AT&T are successful for a reason. They don’t grow their own customers; the customers choose them over the competition, and will continue to do so. Verizon and AT&T do not hold monopoly authority over the data and multimedia we use via our mobile devices, but if allowed to regulate unnecessarily or prematurely, the federal powers that be will certainly have a monopoly on individual choice. Its simply a framing of time.
Devon J. Kozak