Two stories, seemingly unrelated, illustrate how our free-market principles have been corrupted and polarized. David Pogue working in cooperation with the New York Times has exposed a disingenuous business practice by Verizon . To summarize the issue, Edward Wyatt wrote: "In the last three years, the F.C.C. has received hundreds of complaints from Verizon Wireless customers who said they were charged for data use or Web access at times when their phones were not in use or when they mistakenly pushed a button that activated the phone’s Web browser." David quotes Verizon: " “Approximately 15 million customers who did not have data plans were billed for data sessions on their phones that they did not initiate,” the company said on Sunday." Evidently, this scam has been going on for sometime.
This incident, once again raises the specter that these companies are purposely implementing underhanded "things" to separate the consumer from their money. Think of it this way, Verizon is a technologically sophisticated company selling very sophisticated smart phones. So given all the technological expertise at their disposal, Verizon should be able to design a simple "safety switch" to prevent these "accidental" charges. The fact that they have not implies that the management of Verizon is purposefully and willfully promoting disingenuous business practices.
Concerning the second story. Adam Thierer of the Technology Liberation Front wrote an article: Problems in Public Utility Paradise, Part 14: Muni Wi-fi Postmortem. Sadly this article is simply another typical diatribe lambasting attempts by Municipalities to provide their citizens with Wi-Fi services. The theme of the Technology Liberation Front is "... the tech policy blog dedicated to keeping politicians' hands off the 'net and everything else related to technology." So what has this got to do with Verizon?
Verizon, as well as many other technology companies have been caught doing underhanded activities that are injurious to their customers. When companies pursue these strategies and piss-off enough people, regulations happen. Furthermore, if companies truly want a free-market free of regulations; they need to realize that freedom also means responsibility.
Unfortunately, many of the posts on the Technology Liberation Front are postured to vilify government without questioning the business practices of the private sector. It's time for the Technology Liberation Front to look into the mirror for some serious self-reflection concerning who is responsible for the ills in the American economy. If the Technology Liberation Front is truly championing the concept of keeping the politicians away, I would expect some of the commentators to expose bad corporate behavior and demand that the corporations clean-up their business practices. It is a sad commentary on American culture when freedom is considered a right to steal and blogs supposedly defending the free-market, such as the Technology Liberation Front remain silent. For a site based on Libertarian principles, this seems very un-Libertarian
As for me, if a company can't accept responsibility for the freedoms they enjoy, regulate.