Net Neutrality: A Solution In Search Of A Problem (That Will Create More Problems)

Randolph J. May wonders whether the FCC is a lawless organization, in terms of a background in how the Constitution creates our form of government in light of the way the British authorities simply “dispensed power”, a “form of exercise of royal prerogative under which the king could excuse himself or his favored subjects from complying with particular laws enacted by Parliament.” That’s certainly a valid argument, but how he starts his opinion piece is even more interesting, and more relevant to the effect on We The People

This Thursday, Feb. 26, will be a fateful day for the future of the Internet. In the nearly 40 years that I have been involved in communications law and policy, including serving as the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) associate general counsel, this action, without a doubt, is one of the agency’s most misguided.

The sad reality is that, without any convincing evidence of market failure and consumer harm, the FCC is poised, on a 3-2 party-line vote, to expand its control over Internet providers in ways that threaten the Internet’s future growth and vibrancy.

Here is the nub of the matter: By choosing to regulate Internet providers as old-fashioned public utilities in order to enforce “neutrality” mandates, the commission will discourage private-sector investment and innovation for many years to come, if only as a result of the litigation that will be spawned and the uncertainty that will be created. And the new government mandates inevitably will lead to even more than the usual special interest pleading at the FCC, as Internet companies try to advantage themselves and disadvantage their competitors by seeking favored regulatory treatment.

In other words, by turning the Internet into yet another heavily regulated industry, the government will not only stifle innovation and investment, but will be in a position to pick winners and losers, rather than as it is now, where competition reigns to pick winners and losers. No, the Internet is not perfect, nor are the companies involved. But, do you think it will get better, do you think minor problems will be solved, especially those problems that pretty much only exist within the minds of people who are saying “this could happen!!!!!!!!!”, by making it a highly regulated utility? As Jeffrey Dorfman noted back in November 2014

Net neutrality seems like a simple concept: the company that links your computer/tablet/smartphone to the internet should not be able to discriminate among users and providers in the level of connectivity service provided. That is, we should all be able to send and receive the same number of bits of data per second.

This is a bad idea for the same reason that only having vanilla ice cream for sale is a bad idea: some people want, and are willing to pay for, something different. Forcing a one-size-fits-all solution on the Internet stifles innovation by blocking some companies from turning new ideas or business models into successful products.

I pay for a slightly faster Internet speed that the usual Time Warner package, but I see no need for the fastest of the fast. People and private entities can pay for multiple different speeds at different prices. Not to be ageist, but many seniors feel no need for anything but the slowest speed (typically 768kbs), as they are not cruising around and downloading videos and such. People choose the speed that works for them.

Of course, those in favor of net neutrality (thinking the negatives will never affect themselves) discuss what “could” happen. Here’s Patrick Leahy and Richard Blumenthal (Democrats) at Slate

Most Americans believe that when they sign up for Internet access with a broadband provider, they are paying to access the lawful content and services of their choice. But without crucial protections, the relationship can quickly be reversed—instead of selling their customers access to the Internet, broadband providers can effectively sell privileged, fast access to their customers to the highest bidders. By limiting their subscribers’ access to only the websites that can afford to pay, or by blocking or throttling lawful content, broadband providers have the potential to thwart the Internet’s role as an engine of economic growth, democracy, and free speech.

This is similar to Progressive’s arguments for “climate change” regulations: something might happen in the future. At least with climate change, there is validity to the climate having changed from a cool one to a warm one. The argument is on causation. In this case, nothing has happened, which the two Democrats unintentionally note in the very next paragraph

Internet users have now gone more than a year without crucial protections in place that guarantee their right to access the lawful content and services of their choice. Internet users have now gone more than a year without crucial protections in place that guarantee their right to access the lawful content and services of their choice….

So, let me get this straight: there were no “crucial protections” from Big Government in place for a year, and absolutely nothing bad happened? The Internet continued on just as it had? Innovation and investment continued? People developed apps? Websites started? Free speech was not stifled? In fact, the only ones looking to “thwart the Internet’s role as an engine of economic growth, democracy, and free speech” are the Democrats in favor of net neutrality.

Crossed at Pirate’s Cove. Follow me on Twitter @WilliamTeach.

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