Does the Internet Really Need “Saving”?
What is Network Neutrality?
Who is behind the effort to regulate the Internet?
Why is it important to keep the Internet free of government control?
What is the problem network neutrality regulations would supposedly solve?
What does the Left hope to gain from Internet regulations?
Does the FCC have the legal authority to regulate the Internet?
The Obama Administration has made extraordinarily audacious attempts to exert government control over broad swaths of the free economy. Whether it is the auto industry, the health care industry, the energy industry, the financial industry, or the Internet, the left always used the same language – the language of a “crisis” from which the country needs to be “saved.”
The planet will suffer catastrophic man-made global warming unless the government gains control of the energy markets. The auto industry will collapse unless the government gains control of its largest producer. The world will suffer catastrophic economic losses unless the government gains control of the financial markets. Health care will bankrupt the nation unless the government gains control of the insurance markets. And the Internet will cease to exist as we know it unless the government gains control of broadband providers.
In all cases, the left is positioning itself not as a power-hungry opportunist, but as a “savior.” They are “saving the planet,” “saving the financial markets,” “saving the auto industry,” “saving health care,” and “saving the Internet.”
In all cases, “salvation” comes in the form of greater control over a free society by the federal government.
In some cases, the Obama Administration’s attempts to vastly expand government power have come in the attempt to exploit a genuine crisis, such as the financial crisis. But in the case of the Internet, the “crisis” simply cannot be found.
The Internet does not need to be saved BY the Obama Administration. The Internet needs to be saved FROM the Obama Administration.
The Federal Communications Commission is writing new rules – called network neutrality rules – to dictate how Internet providers can manage the information that flows over their networks. Cloaked in terms like non-discrimination, open-Internet, and free speech, network neutrality supporters really just want the government – for the first time since the inception of the Internet – to have control over how private companies deliver broadband to your home and office.
The left and some of their corporate sponsors such as Google have argued for over seven years that the internet as we know it will be destroyed without government regulations. None of their predictions has ever come true, yet their attempts to foster a crisis atmosphere have only become more shrill. The fact is, the Internet is thriving without the government’s intervention and control. The left and Google want government control over the Internet for their own political reasons, not for the benefit of consumers.
The far left is supporting Internet regulation as part of a “political struggle” over control of the Media.
Let there be no mistake: The left’s primary political objective behind “network neutrality” regulations is to impose government control over the Internet as yet another step in the direction of imposing government controls over everything else.
Free Press is the leading organization on the left promoting regulation of the Internet. The Founder of Free Press is Marxist professor Robert McChesney, who, in an interview with a socialist publication, put the “political struggle” this way: “The first issue is the Internet. The battle for network neutrality is to prevent the Internet from being privatized by telephone and cable companies. . . . What we want to have in the US, and in every society, is an Internet that is not private property, but public utility.”
And Free Press is not just promoting its Marxist views from the outside. President Obama’s Federal Communications Commission Chairman wasted no time in promoting Free Press’ press secretary, Jen Howard,** to serve as his official press secretary at the FCC. The radical left is working to regulate the Internet from inside the Administration.
To date, the Internet has enjoyed an unfettered growth, leading to a technological revolution that dramatically increased our ability to communicate, conduct business, and enjoy entertainment. Quite simply, the Internet is one of the world’s greatest success stories. Undoubtedly, all of this growth would not have been possible without the federal government regulating not only where broadband should be provided but to whom and how much bandwidth must be made available.
Despite over seven years of dire predictions by a few shrill Network Neutrality advocates that the Internet as we know it would perish without aggressive regulatory intervention by the Commission, the Internet market has been growing at a staggering pace in a regulation-free environment, even during a severe recession. Consider the decade of advancement and growth documented by Oliver J. Chiang in the December 28 issue of Forbes:
– Number of e-mails sent per day in 2000: 12 billion
– Number of e-mails sent per day in 2009: 247 billion
– Revenues from mobile data services in the first half of 2000: $105 million
– Revenues from mobile data services in the first half of 2009: $19.5 billion
– Number of text messages sent in the U.S. per day in June 2000: 400,000
– Number of text messages sent in the U.S. per day in June 2009: 4.5 billion
– Number of pages indexed by Google in 2000: 1 billion
– Number of pages indexed by Google in 2008: 1 trillion
– Amount of hard-disk space $300 could buy in 2000: 20 to 30 gigabytes
– Amount of hard-disk space $300 could buy in 2009: 2,000 gigabytes (2 terabytes)
Note that the growth in each of these key metrics, in an unregulated environment, is at least three orders of magnitude. Before regulations that would harm such geometric increases in Internet usage and commerce are adopted, those arguing for regulation based on a market-failure rationale must publicly contend with such data.
Network neutrality is a solution in search of a problem because there is no evidence of either a market failure or pattern of abuses. The FCC has not identified any market failures that need to be addressed with regulation. The “problems” network neutrality regulations are supposed to address are hypothetical.
In a Huffington Post article tellingly entitled “Cheney, Rove, and Fleischer and the Importance of Net Neutrality,” associate history professor Joseph A. Palermo unabashedly argues that net neutrality regulations are part of an effort by his fellow leftists to use government to control media in ways that advance the political power of the left, and censor voices on the right. According to Palermo:
“We have a very rare opportunity right now to lock in a progressive advantage in Internet communications, information sharing, and Netroots mobilizing. With Democratic majorities in Congress and a liberal Democratic administration we can blunt the political influence of media conglomerates and the Right. That is why the Republicans and their corporate media sponsors want to destroy [the left’s efforts to promulgate] Net Neutrality [regulations]. They know from their experience with talk radio and the creation of Fox News that corporate absorption of the Internet and ending [the left’s efforts to promulgate] net neutrality [regulations] would be a propaganda coup.”
Palermo says FCC regulations ostensibly aimed at promoting “network neutrality” and “localism” are in fact intended to “make it more difficult for networks to shove people like Cheney, Rove, and Fleischer down our throats.” He concludes his leftist call-to-arms at the FCC with the following admission that the left’s true intention in media regulation is the censorship of voices on the right:
“We don’t need to hear more aristocratic propaganda about the benefits of unfettered capitalism; we don’t need to hear more authoritarian scare tactics that justify torture, false imprisonment, and war; we don’t need to hear more Kulturkampf designed to divide working people through exploiting wedge issues and to control women’s bodies and lay claim to the flag, the military, mom and apple pie.”
Internet regulations may be a good idea in the fantasies of the angry left, but they are bad for freedom, and bad for the future of the Internet, which has been making huge advances for consumers under the free market system Palermo so obviously detests.
It is by no means certain that the Commission has the legal authority to promulgate network neutrality regulations. Even if the FCC were given such authority, the Justice Department and the FTC are better suited to make judgments as to anti-competitive behavior. The lack of a clearly defined policy of network neutrality is mainly owing to there being no clearly identified problem in the first place that such a policy would efficiently address.
Congress has not given the Commission the authority to regulate the Internet for the purposes of ensuring network neutrality, nor have they, or the Executive, or the Courts, even clearly defined such a policy.