What’s going on here? This morning the buzz around the nation’s capital is that the Department of Commerce wants to fund a new entitlement program. Enough is enough. The federal government spends enough money already – about $18,000 for every American household – there is no need to spend $50 million more on a giveaway.
Editorial pages and political pundits around the country ridiculed Newt Gingrich for saying that inner-city children should be given a laptop. Now, five years later, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), a Department of Commerce agency, wants to do just that. NTIA’s budget request includes $50 million to bring computers to low-income homes. This handout, they claim, would decrease the so-called digital divide.
This plan must be exposed for what it is: a feel-good, election-year handout. Today, it is already possible to get a computer at no cost if the consumer agrees to use a particular Internet service. There are also purchase and lease arrangements available for affordable computers – both new and used. Spending taxpayer dollars on something that the market already provides does nothing more than employ bureaucrats and provide a nice sound-bite for politicians on the stump.
The NTIA is the president’s principle advisor on domestic and international telecommunications policy. However, the job of over-intervention, over-regulation, and over-involvement in the technology marketplace is done well enough by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
The fact remains that the current economic boom is in part driven by the fastest deployment of new technology in American history. NTIA should stay out of the way.