The ‘Free Internet’ movement: Looking for governmental solutions

Ryan Radia says Don’t Extend the Dead Hand of the FCC to the Internet — “Entrusting the FCC with broad and ambiguous regulatory powers was, and remains, a grave mistake“.

“On February 26, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will vote on a proposal to regulate companies that provide Internet access as public utilities.”

“Why the sudden march to regulate? In 2008 and again in 2010, the FCC tried to impose somewhat less onerous rules on Internet providers, but both times, a federal court found that the agency exceeded its authority. Rather than admit defeat and move on, the FCC took a third stab at rulemaking in 2014—this time proposing more modest rules that hewed to the court’s rulings. But last summer, the White House began making its own plans for the Internet, as if it were a “parallel version of the FCC itself.”

“The rallying cry behind the FCC’s impending rules can be summed up in two words: net neutrality. According to this superficially benign concept, coined by the left-leaning law professor Tim Wu, Internet providers should be barred from discriminating against applications, services, content, or devices without an extremely good reason. Over time, net neutrality has morphed into the broader notion that Internet providers shouldn’t even be allowed to accept payment from content companies such as Netflix or Amazon for priority traffic handling.”

“Why the drive to handicap Internet providers’ business models? Because, the argument goes, infrastructure is special—so much so that it deserves comprehensive federal oversight. Internet service providers are supposedly all-powerful gatekeepers with the incentive and ability to pick winners and losers online.”

As a general rule, the government is a last resort for solving society’s problems. Advocating governmental involvement when you can’t really define a problem should raise many questions. Creating conspiracies and imagined collusion in order to assert monopoly is not a good basis for action. The record of the government in regards to telecommunications regulation was only adequate when there actually was a monopoly and technology needed a gateway. The heyday of that for telephones was forty years ago. Twenty years ago, technologies provided a means around the established infrastructure. But we still have taxes from a hundred years ago, taxes that hit the small and less capitalized persons and businesses the hardest. Getting government to let go is even more difficult that getting it involved in the first place. That is the threat with this effort to implement socialist theology on the I’net.

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