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.