I wrote and published this piece in 2010 and have meant to come back to it. It looks at the arguments that were given on the issue of government postal roads and offices, when the Founders were drafting the U.S. Constitution. They believed that the immediate and free flow of information is essential to the proper functioning of a democratic government. You cannot get more immediate than internet communication.
The idea that the government would be involved in that, rather than only private industry, at least in setting the basic foundation for free-flowing communications, was thought essential. Otherwise it would be very cheap to communicate within a city, but very expensive for those who lived in rural areas, like where I live, in Mississippi.
Check it out. Guess who makes an appearance in the paper — none other than a young then-Congressman Trent Lott (I work with the Lott Institute), who was the moderate voice in a discussion with American Enterprise Institute representatives. The AEI folks felt quite sure that private industry was all that was needed. Lott was forward thinking, even, suggesting in the 1970s (!) that the post office should be looking into electronic communication. They did not do that, unlike France, and look at where our postal services are compared to the French – or trust me, the latter’s faring far better. They’re even looking into drone delivery services.
The topic of this paper is important to me, as it attends to an area in which we might build up American infrastructure in a way that is enabling of business and democratic communication. Keep in mind that many private businesses — newspapers — wanted the post office mail for free! Yes, read the paper. Mailing letters, catalogs, and payments, enables business, even if it takes some government regulation of part of a market — postal communication — to do so.
When I delivered this paper years ago at the Policy Studies Organization’s Dupont Summit conference in Washington, D.C., a representative from the American Enterprise Institute, whom I won’t name, told me that I had convinced him, which was a nice compliment. “It’s in the Constitution,” he said. Indeed, there’s a Constitutional basis for public investment in improving our infrastructure.
Weber, Eric Thomas. “A Historical Mandate to Expand Broadband Internet Infrastructure.” Review of Policy Research 27, Issue 5 (2010): 681-689.