Perhaps in his article, For Tech Giants, A Cautionary Tale From 19th Century Railroads on the Limits of Competition, author Richard White’s (Stanford University) last sentence is, perhaps, key to our times and challenge regarding free and open internet access.
When monopoly threatens something as fundamental as the free circulation of information and the equal access of citizens to technologies central to their daily life, the issues are no longer economic.
White examines the profoundly similar difficulties the country faced as railroad corporations formed monopolies that gobbled up land and power to control/limit not just competition, but the movement of goods and services (as well as the economic futures of towns and regions along their rails), but further, allowed them the power to choose winners and losers of industries themselves.
Opinions regarding free and open internet access today is often loosely broken into two camps: to increase, or not, further government regulations. But as the piece makes clear, it’s far more complicated than that, and in the end, questions our commitment to an open society and the right to participate in that society — the ability of the individual to learn, grow and prosper fairly.
It’s an interesting look back at history and what we’ve learned, or not, still an open question. Check it out here.