The Internet is one of the most incredible examples of what happens when you leave the marketplace to its own devices. Left untouched by government regulations, the internet has transformed every aspect of life, from education to business to how we communicate as a society. Nobody could have predicted just how important and world changing the internet would be, including those in government. Why, then, is the F.C.C. prepared to argue that government interference of the internet is necessary to guarantee continued innovation?
Julian Genachowski, Chairman of the F.C.C., claims that in order to prevent freedom of the internet from being stolen, the government must seize control of it. He is currently hard at work on a regulatory order that amounts to yet another power grab by big government, this time claiming authority over the internet. Dubbed “Net Neutrality,” the regulatory plan is anything but neutral. It is not neutral on the issue of commerce. It is not neutral on the issue of private property. It is not neutral on the issue of liberty.
Genachowski’s policy would forbid Internet Service Providers (ISPs) from blocking the content they choose to block. The F.C.C. claims this is to prevent censorship but that becomes a suspicious defense when you look at the bigger picture. In 2008, The F.C.C. found cable giant Comcast to be in violation of federal internet policy because they blocked their customers’ access to information from the peer-to-peer service, BitTorrent. Comcast brought the case to a U.S. Court of Appeals and won on the grounds that the agency had no authority over how Comcast manages their business. The F.C.C.’s issue with Comcast was the fact that the company blocked, or censored, use of the file-sharing site, yet just last week the federal government shut down the domains of multiple peer-to-peer sites, a significantly more censoring move than anything Comcast engaged in. What we can glean from this is not that the F.C.C. is aiming at preventing censorship but that they want to be the censors. Referring to an internet free of regulations, Genachowski says, “There are real risks to the Internet’s continued freedom and openness.” In fact, the only real threat to the internet’s continued freedom is the government. It is only government that has the power to censor. A private ISP can certainly choose what kind of internet access it offers customers but they can’t do anything to prevent those users from taking their business to other providers. A free marketplace allows for competition, and competitors will be happy to offer an internet service that gives consumers what they want in exchange for their cash.
To make the policy seem fair, Genachowski points out that the F.C.C. “would allow” ISP providers to tier their pricing based on usage. It “would allow” broadband providers to decide what rates they charge. It “would allow” providers to manage their traffic. It “would allow” them to experiment with specialized services such as a medical, legal, or security specific superhighway…so long as the ISP company can provide justification for the business venture. I have one question for the Chairman: “Why do ISP companies need government permission to develop their business model as they choose?” Genachowski wants to create transparency rules, requiring ISPs to disclose the way they manage their business and he wants to monitor “anti-competitive” and “anti-consumer” behavior. Anyone who doesn’t understand that the market, itself, monitors competition and consumer behavior should play absolutely no role in overseeing a business model of any kind.
Mr. Genachowski is working on this monstrosity of a regulation right now. He plans to finalize it and bring it up for a vote at the commission’s next meeting, scheduled for December 21st. You should begin contacting your elected officials now, letting them know you stand firmly opposed to net neutrality and that they should, too. You can be sure I’ll be calling Senator Barbara Boxer, Senator Dianne Feinstein, and Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-CA) urging them to oppose this sort of regulation should they be faced with a vote in the future.