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Net neutrality regulation is expected – watch your wallets

Net neutrtrality is prominent in the news again. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is likely to propose regulating Internet service like a public utility, thereby ending the net neutrality debate which has been raging for months.

Many advocates of free speech will hail it as a victory, just as many proponents of free enterprise will not. From the perch of more than 40 years of observing how government regulation has stifled growth and how innovation has come about despite regulation and not because of it, there should not be cause for celebration. One need only look at the colossal size of the government, and behold the mass surveillance scene to gauge just how worrisome government intervention is. So mark my words – there will be a price to pay for what proponents call an Open Internet, and it will not be cheap.

The FCC initiative, drawn up by partisan Democratic majority, will reclassify the high-speed Internet as a telecommunications service rather than an information service under Title II of the Communications Act according to informed sources. This move is championed by President Obama and his hand-picked chairman, Tom Wheeler. While it will purportedly give the FCC strong legal authority to ensure that no content is blocked ,and that no priority fast lanes will be permitted, (centerpieces of the debate for those in favor of regulation), it will come at the price of letting the government in the door.

The White House is saying all the right things, as one would expect it to. For example it promises there will be no meddlesome pricing issues and other intrusive, cumbersome elements often attendant with utility regulation. But make no mistake – once the genie is out of the bottle, the invasive atmosphere which is pervasive in Washington will prevail to the detriment of the consumer. Recognizing the ominous pitfalls inherent in such regulation, Congressional Republicans have proposed net neutrality legislation which bans content blocking and fast and slow lanes, but also prevents the FCC from issuing regulations to achieve those goals.

The government argues that opening up the possibility of fast lanes for only the deep-pocketed companies while relegating slow lanes for everyone else is specious and deceptive, but it plays into the President’s narrative carrying over from his State of the Union address, and sets the agenda for the 2016 election cycle during which rich vs. the middle class will be the theme. Net neutrality is merely a side show held hostage to this populist dynamic which will play out over the next 18 months.

Stating the obvious and staking out the position, as he is want to do, Obama said,

For most Americans, the Internet has become an essential part of everyday communication and everyday life.

No kidding? Well one way to harness it for our political agenda is to regulate it, I assume he presumes.

I am not alone in fearing the dark side of the proposed regulation. David Farber is a former chief technologist at the FCC, served on the board of the Internet Society and also helped design parts of the Internet. Like me he worries about the Title II initiative saying,

My fear is that regulating the Internet like (regulating) telecommunications service potentially opens a Pandora’s box.

I couldn’t agree more. Moreover, he fears that while this particular board may be well meaning and disciplined, there is no guarantee that future commissions will be similarly restrained, and that we will see the demise of the freewheeling innovation of the Internet industry.

The Obama administration seeks to pit David vs. Goliath in this debate because that argument resonates. But based on what is a Washington by-product- ’’regulation creep”- the public may ultimately suffer. Next will be the regulating of VPNs for “national security” reasons.

 

* The rest of the BestVPN team fully support net neutrality, and welcome the FCC’s new proposals. We do value, however, the balance Stan’s views bring to our reporting.


Stan Ward Stan Ward has enjoyed writing for 50 years. Writing has been a comfortable companion to a successful business and teaching career for him. Find him on Google+.

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8 responses to “Net neutrality regulation is expected – watch your wallets

  1. Does the rest of the team live in the US?
    It all sounds good on paper, but he is correct about the government! I’m VERY skeptical & do not trust government at all!!

  2. On point that needs clarification. Stan states : “FCC strong legal authority to ensure that no content is blocked”, I believe the FCC plans to ensure that no LEGAL content is blocked. Whatever is deemed “illegal” can and likely will be blocked. It doesn’t take much to get a govt to make something illegal nowadays, and all you illegal downloaders, kiss that goodbye.

  3. Stan is right, the rest of you are wrong. The US feds have been trying various means to increase regulation of the internet since the mid-90s. Back in those days sites would go “black” to show their resistance to such efforts. And a short time ago, we were fighting SOPA, the difference now is they’ve framed it as somehow protecting “freedom” of internet users. Total garbage. Traffic has always been ‘shaped’ in the internet and it makes sense to do so. Why should all internet users be forced to pay for Netflix’s increased traffic? Of course they’re in favor of this, they offload their costs onto everyone instead of their paying customers. Stop and think about this, since when does the govt act in your interest? You’re being conned and making easy pray.

    1. Hi Kent,

      This is why we value Stab’s contributions. I, however, disagree – ‘why should all internet users be forced to pay for Netflix’s increased traffic?’ – because that is precisely why they are paying ISPs for bandwidth – you do not need a 30MB/s broadband connection to send email or surf the web, you need it so you can do things like watch Netflix. IMO ISP’s should in fact be grateful to the likes of Netflix for creating a demand for their services…

      As for ‘since when does the govt act in your interest?’ – while that is certainly true, you should also ask ‘when did big business ever act in our interests?’ All the proposed new rules do is guarantee that some traffic cannot be prioritized over others…

      1. Its the market that acts in our interest by meeting and exceeding our demand. You get the govt involved in this, there’s no going back. All the efforts made to keep the govts hands off the internet will be gone, it will be endless regulation, always “in the public interest” of course. Oh well, guess its for the best, I’ve been on the internet nearly none stop since 1992, I could use a new hobby.

  4. Sorry, this just reads like paranoid, partisan fearmongering. “Mark my words,” indeed.

    And for what it’s worth, Ed Felten, who was the FTC’s first chief technologist and is a professor in tech and policy, is all for net neutrality. We could play the “experts say” game all day, but I’m betting you’d find more in favor.

    Wheeler, for all his “being hand-picked,” worked as a lobbyist for the cable industry, so exactly NO ONE was surprised when he tried for months to allow fast lanes, precisely because the president can’t actually force him to do anything. It doesn’t matter who picked him–the president can’t actually force him to do anything.

    The argument that this will lead to more government regulation, especially without facts to back it up, is pretty weak. The profit-at-any-cost corporations, on the other hand, are the ones to watch out for–and a case where a little government regulation wouldn’t come amiss.

    1. Hi Not into Fearmongering,

      As we note at the end of this article, Stan’s view of the world does not match that of the rest of the BestVPN staff. For an alternative take on this subject, please see my article at bestvpncom.wpengine.com/blog/12593/fcc-proposes-classifying-internet-title-ii-utility/.

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