Sunday, September 19, 2010

Jeffersonville's Wi-Fi Welfare Zone Creates Government Granted Monopoly

HARBESON: Why is there Wi-Fi welfare?

> SOUTHERN INDIANA — Business owners who happen to be located in Jeffersonville’s new Wi-Fi welfare zone sure seem happy about being given the chance to benefit from other people’s money. I don’t blame them though — it’s not their fault. As far as I know none of them went to the government begging for this handout.

I don’t know where the idea for government-funded Wi-Fi came from. I do know the money is coming from government organizations that need to find ways to look useful and justify their existence. This means creating projects so they can spend the coerced funds that fall under their authority. Well, after they siphon off lots of it for expenses, of course.

The business that won the bid for this project wants you to think this is a great idea because it supports small businesses. This is just another example of someone who benefits from a government program doing their best to frame the message so it sounds fair. But for clarity, accuracy and truth, what the company representative should have said is that this project supports “some” small businesses.

As anyone who’s ever been in the Wi-Fi welfare zone knows, the businesses that have a market-based reason for providing wireless access to their customers could already do so. There was opportunity for any technology-based businesses to make money for their families by offering various competing technological services to these downtown businesses. This opportunity is no longer possible in this Wi-Fi welfare zone. What exists now is a government granted monopoly to, effectively pushing out competitors.

Also consider the small businesses located in less favored areas of the city. If they decide Wi-Fi is important for their business model, not only do they now need to invest their own money for their business, they also have to support those in the Wi-Fi welfare zone, who could even be direct competitors.

In addition, since Internet users can hook up anywhere in the Wi-Fi welfare zone, they don’t need to spend a dime in anyone’s business. Gone is the natural market environment of mutual cooperation and exchange, where the customer is happy to purchase goods and support a business in return for the extra customer service provided.

This project does not support small business. It only serves as another sad example to clearly demonstrate the harmful consequences of government intervention into free and competitive enterprise.

Some readers might be irritated at my use of the phrase, Wi-Fi welfare zone, and you may have a point. After all — as most of us understand welfare — it is intended to be used for those in hardship or need. Yet this situation is like seeing people who can already afford to eat fancy steak dinners every night and government deciding they need to spend other people’s money so these folks can continue eating the fancy dinners. So I guess it’s not like welfare. It’s worse.

Another stated benefit is that this project will increase the hits to the city’s website. Why is the city trying to buy hits to its government website? Do they want to show increased usage in order to justify future expenditures? And why would more people go there? Are we really supposed to believe that new visitors and shoppers to the area will be spending their time on the Internet so they can watch Mayor Galligan videos?

However, if this project is going to provide links, let me suggest that would be a great one to add. This would prove useful to anyone interested in learning more about economic freedom and get a better understanding of how government intervention can only lead to dependency.

— Sellersburg resident Debbie Harbeson creates irritating phrases when she gets irritated. If this irritates you, then irritate her by sending your own irritating phrases to her.

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