A “private-public partnership” sounds so much better than Big Business-Big Government collusion, doesn’t it? No wonder that’s how the federal government bills its Connect to Compete initiative — an effort to extend affordable broadband Internet access across the country.

Today, the Federal Communications Commission announced that a handful of cable companies will offer discounted rates to low-income families — defined as those families that qualify for free school lunches. Families that qualify for free or reduced-price lunches will also be able to purchase low-cost computers.

According to the president, “securing America’s competitiveness in a global economy means making sure that every American has access to high-speed broadband Internet and is able to take advantage of it.”

That might be — but it’s simply not the federal government’s role to provide it. To act as if it is — or as if this initiative is laudable — is to imply that Internet access is a right. And while it might sound perfectly legitimate for cable companies to voluntarily offer discounted rates — and to presumably take the hit to the bottom line that that entails — one can only wonder why these companies are so amenable. Are subsidies a part of this? In store for the future? This Reuters article (and others I’ve read) make no mention of what the cable companies will receive in return — but no cost-conscious company would offer the discounted rates for nothing. The FCC estimates the retail value of the discounted high-speed Internet service at around $4 billion.

This is yet one more example of federal government overreach.