Published January 12, 2010
Glenn Beck and I exposed how radical White House Internet czar Susan Crawford was in 2009 and she resigned. Unfortunately, in 2010 her former colleagues appear undaunted in their efforts to take over the Internet. Despite the fact that the Federal Communications Commission’s claims to have jurisdiction in this area were revealed to be extremely flimsy just last week, the FCC is moving ahead with proposed "Open Internet" rules, which would give federal regulators vast new powers.
"Open Internet" is the left's latest marketing language for what they used to call "net neutrality." It sounds simple: force phone and cable companies to treat every bit of information the same way. Great, until you realize that modern networks are incredibly complex, with millions of lines of code in every router. Making sure services like VoIP, video conferencing, and telemedicine (not to mention the next great thing that hasn't been invented yet) get priority may be necessary to make the Internet work, but the government is considering regulations that will make it illegal to prioritize traffic.
These networks cost billions of dollars to build and maintain, and if there is uncertainty about getting a good return on that investment, private investment will dry up. And then government will step in, spending billions of our tax dollars on a government-owned and controlled Internet. It’s already started, with $7.2 billion in “broadband stimulus” in last year’s bloated stimulus bill that the FCC considers a down payment on much bigger infusions of taxpayer dollars, which tend to come with strings of government control attached.
If the idea of regulations setting us down a path that ends in government control of the network strikes you as a wild conspiracy theory, consider the words of one of the leading advocates of the “Open Internet,” Robert McChesney. McChesney is the socialist college professor who founded the left-wing group Free Press, which styles itself the leading defender of the “Open Internet.”
McChesney explained his goal to SocialistProject.ca: "What we want to have in the U.S. and in every society is an Internet that is not private property, but a public utility."
McChesney went on to explain:
"At the moment, the battle over network neutrality is not to completely eliminate the telephone and cable companies. We are not at that point yet. But the ultimate goal is to get rid of the media capitalists in the phone and cable companies and to divest them from control.”
Proponents of “Open Internet” regulation believe the phone and cable companies are evil corporations who will rip-off customers and interfere with innovation and free speech. But they’ve been warning of impending doom now for over seven years, and just the opposite has happened—companies have done everything possible to compete with each other on price and quality, especially in the hyper-competitive wireless market.
Fortunately, the American people have an opportunity to make their voice heard about the future of the Internet, and whether it should continue to be comprised of networks owned and controlled by competing private companies or largely reorganized by the heavy hand of Washington regulators. We have set up a public comment campaign on the Americans for Prosperity Web site to make it easy for people to put official comments into the docket at the FCC. You can reach that page and participate by clicking here. The deadline for this round of comments is January 14.
The FCC has also set up its own blog at www.OpenInternet.gov for commenting on its proposed regulations, where the left is running wild at the moment. It’s not clear what legal status blog posts will have, so it’s important to put an official comment in the docket, but we also shouldn’t let the radical left run wild on www.OpenInternet.gov and create the perception that most American think the Internet needs to be regulated. So it’s worth a trip over there to weigh in on the side of regulatory restraint, free markets, and private ownership.
In the absence of a demonstrated problem, it would be crazy to invite in the regulators with their solution of strict government control. After all, if Washington does end up in control of the Internet, they could potentially restrict it as a medium of dissent, blocking the ability to communicate, educate, and organize. Those are the ultimate stakes in the FCC’s ridiculously misnamed "Open Internet" rulemaking.
Mr. Kerpen is chairman of the Internet Freedom Coalition and a vice president of Americans for Prosperity. He can be contacted through PhilKerpen.com. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook. His free two-minute Podcast is available daily.