Philadelphia Reflections

The musings of a physician who has served the community for over six decades

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Philadelphia Politics (2)
New topic 2014-07-22 23:24:15 description

Right Angle Club: 2015
The tenth year of this annal, the ninety-third for the club. Because its author spent much of the past year on health economics, a summary of this topic takes up a third of this volume. The 1980 book now sells on Amazon for three times its original price, so be warned.

Medical (#2)
New topic 2019-05-24 23:10:33 description

Net Neutrality

Bob Fernandez

Bob Fernandez, a reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer since 1993, recently addressed the Right Angle Club about Net Neutrality. He certainly knows his stuff about technology, but he got blind-sided, this time about politics. The term "net neutrality" is bewildering to most of us, and somehow it always had a ring of phoniness to it, as though it had been professionally synthesized by a corporate PR officer. And curiously, it seems to have much less interest to women, while it brightens up the eyes of almost any male audience. Men all have an opinion about it, even though the opinions differ from each other. Our speaker clarified this matter somewhat, by explaining that Netflix and Comcast have been dueling over this for several years. For one thing, Netflix consumes 40% of the bandwidth capacity of cable television.

In the commercial world, such a market dominance usually leads to the attitude by the customer (Netflix, in this case) that if they provide such a large amount of business, they are entitled to a volume discount. The seller, on the other hand, tends to feel that such a customer always wants special treatment so they can demand an extra-high price. The rest of the technical discussion is usually just special pleading, having to do with bandwidth, etc. The technical part was quite interesting since the field is constantly changing, but it wasn't what they were really arguing about.

Net Neutrality

The next day's Wall Street Journal ran a commentary from the Republican member of the Federal Communications Commission, declaring technology had nothing to do with it. President Obama had instructed the Democratic majority of the commission to make cable television into a regulated utility, and Chairman Wheeler had complied. In an instant, the issue was no longer technical, but a Constitutional issue of whether the President has a right to over-rule an "independent" commission in its judgment of a technical issue. Since the Constitution never mentions Independent Commissions, it could become quite a tangled issue.

The Wall Street Journal also had a side commentary of its own. Quite a normal political squeeze job. Congress and Presidents love to impose irritating regulations, for the sole purpose of shaking the money tree. That is, inducing both sides of a controversy to donate campaign funds, dragging it out for a few years, and then letting the corporations run their business as they please. My, my. Such a cynical public we are developing. Maybe what we need is an Evita Peron, to do this dirty work in a smoother way, so characteristic of the female sex.

Originally published: Tuesday, March 17, 2015; most-recently modified: Friday, May 24, 2019