Should municipal and county government be permitted to own and operate local high-speed Internet systems—Community Broadband Networks (CBNs)?

Timothy Karr of Freepress.net and Gerry Smith of Huffington Post (among other writers) argue that governments should be permitted to own and operate CBNs because this provides “competition” against big Internet service providers (ISPs) such as AT&T, Comcast, Time Warner Cable, CenturyLink, and Verizon.

But such arguments ignore the crucial distinction between government and private institutions. Government has a legal monopoly on the use of physical force. Unlike private companies, government can use its taxing powers to prop up its “businesses” by subsidizing rates and capital costs—or use its regulatory powers to hamper “competing” private companies. Private companies are legally forbidden to use physical force against anyone. To suggest that competition is possible between two adversaries—one armed (the government) and one not (private companies)—is absurd. . . .

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