Hey Vermont, Stop “Protecting” Me!

Here in rural Vermont, high-speed Internet service is not yet universally available. So it was with great pleasure that in late 2007 I was able to switch from Earthlink’s 56k dialup service to Verizon DSL broadband. Last year, Verizon’s interest in landline telephone and Internet service in Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine, was bought out by a North Carolina company, FairPoint Communications. Thus, this firm now provides such services to my home.

It seems that subsequently, due to a snafu associated with FairPoint commandeering Verizon’s old computer systems in order to assure continuity of service, numerous complaints from customers across Vermont have prompted, according to the Rutland Herald of August 11, the following:

“Vermont regulators told FairPoint Communications Monday they have 30 days to explain why their authority to continue operating in the state shouldn’t be taken away.

“The Vermont Public Service Board told officials with the North Carolina company that they must respond by Sept. 10 to concerns expressed by state officials over their handling of Verizon’s former business here in the state.

“FairPoint took over Verizon’s Internet and landline services in Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine last year, but since switching over to their computer system early in 2009, a host of problems – from late service to incorrect bills – have emerged.

“Last month, the Vermont Department of Public Service, the state entity that represents consumers, filed a petition with the Public Service Board, the regulators of telecommunication companies, to investigate why FairPoint should be allowed to continue operating in the state.”

Let’s slow down just a little to see the woods for the trees (we are talking Vermont, after all), shall we?

I’d like to know how it is that politicians and bureaucrats have any say in what company or companies I, or any other consumer or trader, choose to do business with. I’ve personally encountered no problems with my Internet or phone service outside of the usual small and temporary glitches associated with any Internet connection, and my bills have always been correct and timely. However, others have apparently experienced otherwise. Can those others honestly say that the solution is tax-financed government intervention? Has anyone ever heard of simply switching companies, as is one of the beauties and essential features of a market economy?

Oh, wait a minute…you say that only FairPoint is available in your neck of Vermont? Or that, yes, there are other communications companies, but that only FairPoint provides broadband? Well say, did you ever wonder why that might be? Might it be that the Vermont Department of Public Service has been stealing your money in order to deliberately limit your choices? Think of the arrogance of presuming to be “the state entity that represents consumers.” The VDPS can’t possibly represent all of the different likes, dislikes, and preferences of hundreds of thousands of Vermonters, any more than any of Vermont’s politicians ever can. VDPS sure doesn’t represent me, I can tell you that – especially when they propose to shut down, by threat of violent force no less, a company with whom I am perfectly content to remain a customer — and prevent or hamper others from endeavoring to compete in the marketplace through coercive regulations and control mechanisms.

But this condition is endemic of government. They are determined to “protect” you – and steal your money under threat of violence to boot in order to do it – whether you desire that kind of “protection,” or any “protection” at all, for that matter. I’ll take companies like FairPoint Communications — occasional warts, shortfalls and all — over government any day. If, in the future, FairPoint pisses me off too much, I at least know I can just walk away from them. When that point is widely appreciated enough, we’ll all be able to just walk away from government as well.

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