For the past few years, a debate has been raging over net neutrality. While, in principle, I’m sympathetic to the idea of a neutral net, I’ve always suspected there was a secondary agenda, that “net neutrality” was a backdoor for something more sinister. It is well known the power that be hate the open internet, hate anonymous commenting and posting, despise free speech and would love to have officially approved channels of information.
Well, the mask is torn, at least a little bit:
Proponents of network neutrality regulation are cheering the announcement this week that the Federal Communications Commission will seek to reclassify Internet Service Providers as “common carriers” under Title II of the Telecommunications Act. The move would trigger broad regulatory powers over Internet providers—some of which, such as authority to impose price controls, the FCC has said it will “forbear” from asserting—in the name of “preserving the open internet.”
Sanchez goes on to point out the FCC is contemplating a broad action in response to … a very nebulous situation. It’s not clear exactly what menace is so dire they need to respond to it immediately. It is clear, however, that moving toward a regulatory model will give them unprecedented power, as warned by … um … one of the FCC commissioners:
First, President Obama’s plan marks a monumental shift toward government control of the Internet. It gives the FCC the power to micromanage virtually every aspect of how the Internet works. It’s an overreach that will let a Washington bureaucracy, and not the American people, decide the future of the online world. It’s no wonder that net neutrality proponents are already bragging that it will turn the FCC into the “Department of the Internet.” For that reason, if you like dealing with the IRS, you are going to love the President’s plan.
Second, President Obama’s plan to regulate the Internet will increase consumers’ monthly broadband bills. The plan explicitly opens the door to billions of dollars in new taxes on broadband. Indeed, states have already begun discussions on how they will spend the extra money. These new taxes will mean higher prices for consumers and more hidden fees that they have to pay.
Third, President Obama’s plan to regulate the Internet will mean slower broadband for American consumers. The plan contains a host of new regulations that will reduce investment in broadband networks. That means slower Internet speeds. It also means that many rural Americans will have to wait longer for access to quality broadband.
Fourth, President Obama’s plan to regulate the Internet will hurt competition and innovation and move us toward a broadband monopoly. The plan saddles small, independent businesses and entrepreneurs with heavy-handed regulations that will push them out of the market. As a result, Americans will have fewer broadband choices. This is no accident. Title II was designed to regulate a monopoly. If we impose that model on a vibrant broadband marketplace, a highly regulated
monopoly is what we’ll get. We shouldn’t bring Ma Bell back to life in this dynamic, digital age.
Tom Wheeler, Chairman of the FCC, is promising us that they won’t apply outmoded regulatory models to the internet. But one thing a decade of blogging has taught me: never take that sort of thing on trust. If the FCC has the power to do anything — control prices, restrict technology, regulate providers — they will use it. And a good reason to be suspicious is that they’re trying to keep their plans a secret:
But perhaps the most extraordinary thing about the proposal, which is 332 pages long, is that it is being kept secret from the public—and it will remain secret until after a vote later this month in which it is likely to pass on a 3-2 basis, with Wheeler and the FCC’s two Democratically appointed commissioners outvoting the two Republican-appointed commissioners.
The commissioners can see the plan before they cast their votes. But the rest of us can’t. Lobbyists will likely be able to discover key details affecting their clients, and some details will leak out in the press. But the full text of the plan won’t be made public at all before the vote.
Wheeler previously opposed such a move and it’s generally felt that he came under immense pressure from the White House to do this. That is, our “most transparent administration in history” is pressuring the FCC to engage in massive regulatory expansion completely in secret that could give them a stunning amount of power over one of the most important communication networks in history.
Congress needs to act immediately. The President is usurping their power to decide net neutrality regulations. They need to kill this power grab before it’s enacted. This isn’t a partisan issue. If the government gets this kind of regulatory hold of the internet, we are all screwed — liberal, conservative, libertarian, monarchist or upside-down pineapple cakeist.