Kin Lane

Internet Connectivity As A Poster Child For How Markets Work Things Out

I have a number of friends who worship markets, and love to tell me that we should be allowing them to just work things out. They truly believe in the magical powers of markets, that they are great equalizers, and work out all the worlds problems each day. ALL the folks who tell me this are dudes, with 90% being white dudes. From their privileged vantage point, markets are what brings balance and truth to everything–may the best man win. Survival of the fittest. May the best product win, and all that that delusion.

From my vantage point markets work things out for business leaders. Markets do not work things out for people. Markets don’t care about people with disabilities. Markets don’t see education and healthcare any differently than it sees financial products and commodities–it just works to find the most profit it possibly can. Markets work so diligent and blindly towards this goal, it will even do this to its own detriment, while believers think this is just how things should be–the markets decided.

I see Internet connectivity as a great example of markets working things out. We’ve seen consolidation of network connections into the hands of a few cable and telco giants. These market forces are looking to work things out and squeeze every bit of profit out of it’s networks that it can, completely ignoring the opportunities that are available when the networks operate at scale, and freely operate to protect everyone’s benefits. Instead of paying attention to the bigger picture, these Internet gatekeepers are all about squeezing every nickel they can for every bit of bandwidth that is currently being transmitted over the network.

The markets that are working the Internet out do not care if the bits on the network are from a school, a hospital, or you playing an online game and watching videos–it just wants to meter and throttle them. It may care just enough to understand where it can possible charge more because it is a matter of life or death, or it is your child’s education, so you are willing to pay more, but as far as actually equipping our world with quality Internet–it could care less. Cable providers and telco operators are in the profit making business, using the network that drives the Internet, even at the cost of the future–this is how short sighted markets are.

AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast do not care about the United States remaining competitive in a global environment. They care about profits. AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast do not care about folks in rural areas possessing quality broadband to remain competitive with metropolitan areas. They care about profits. In these games, markets may work things out between big companies, deciding who wins and loses, but markets do not work things out for people who live in rural areas, or depend on Internet for education and healthcare. Markets do not work things out for people, they work things out for businesses, and the handful of people who operate these businesses.

So, when you tell me that I should trust that markets will work things out, you are showing me that you do not care about people. Except for those handful of business owners who are hoping you will some day be in the club with. Markets rarely ever work things out for average people, let alone people of color, with disabilities, and beyond. When you tell me about the magic of markets, you are demonstrating to me that you don’t see these layers of society. Which demonstrates your privilege, your lack of empathy for the humans around you, while also demonstrating how truly sad your life must be, because it is lacking in meaningful interactions with a diverse slice of the life we are living on this amazing planet.