Cell Phone Paternalism

Believe it or not, a group of civil rights activists is lobbying the FCC to investigate MetroPCS for violating “net neutrality” because they offer cell phone service with and without things like streaming video. According to these groups such plans are a “gross inequity” that is “un-American.”

Here is an excellent response in the Huffington Post by (self-described) lefty David Honig, co-founder of the Minority Media and Telecommunications Council (MMTC):

Do you have a cell phone? How would you like it if the FCC required you to pay an extra $20 a month to get movie downloads, whether you want them not, or to allow your kids to access violent video games or adult content, whether you want them to or not, just so everyone would get what the government considers to be “the full Internet experience?” What if you’re low income, and you’d rather spend that $20 on books? Or warm clothes? Or food?

My friend Malkia Cyril of the Center for Media Justice doesn’t want low income people to have that choice. She says it’s “un-American to give low-income communities substandard Internet service that creates barriers to economic opportunity and democratic engagement.”…

Cyril is making a common mistake among us lefties when it comes to low income people — she is being paternalistic. Those poor poor people. They can’t think for themselves, so the government has to make decisions for them. In this case, Cyril argues, the FCC should outlaw Plan A (and maybe Plan B) and require every carrier to offer only full-menu service like Plan C. All this in the name of “net neutrality.”

If I’ve learned anything from my 45 years working with low income folks, it’s this: they’re intelligent and they’re resourceful. They have to be in order to survive. They don’t appreciate condescension or sloganeering in their name. And they have sense enough to know whether they’d rather use an extra $20 a month for movie downloads or for movie tickets — and would rather get discounts for services they do not want or need.

…What the FCC doesn’t need to do is increase costs for those who can least afford it. As long as there’s full transparency, low income people ought to be able to choose Plan A, B or C. Low income people — the underserved — don’t need the FCC to decide, for them, how they can spend their money.

Bravo. We need more lefties like this.

Addendum: More from Tom Hazlett.


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