In the alternate reality known as the world of insurance, the word “regulation” is enough to give most executives the heebie-jeebies.
This is certainly understandable in a business environment that, at its core, is a smoothly-running gambling proposition in which the odds are highly stacked in favor of the house. Those tables of statistics and probabilities work just fine for insurers, and outside interference in the form of regulation is often a cause for concern.
The same kind of trepidation in regard to regulation is apparently felt by those in the information technology (IT) arena. According to a recent survey by the Computer Technology Industry Association (CompTIA) of 600 IT workers, “an overwhelming number [of respondents] thought government should not regulate the Internet like telephones or television (79%).”
What are we to make of such a sentiment? Much of the answer depends on what we mean by “regulation.” Telephones and television are ostensibly regulated to ensure fair competition between providers–and hopefully fair pricing and good service for consumers.
Most of us would have a hard time raising an objection to those goals in principle. As a nation, we are all about fairness, as much as we are all about getting a good deal for our hard-earned money.
Yet there is a downside to this kind of regulation. Undoubtedly, power struggles and money grabs are rife in the TV and telecommunications industries, as players jockey for the best competitive position. Such an atmosphere almost invites corruption, political power plays and back room dealing.
Given the acrid taste such activities leave in one’s mouth, it’s not surprising that many would rather not have this happen with the largest and most potent communications paradigm ever known in our history on planet Earth.
Many of us still hold a romantic view of the Internet as a wild and free frontier open to cyber-pioneers who have enough smarts and gumption to make their success there. At one time, the Internet backbone depended on unpaid volunteers with good hearts who made their computers available for worldwide use.
That party, ladies and gentlemen, is over.