Thursday, February 26, 2015

Democrats Reducing Freedom: Net Neutrality . . .

Today the Federal Communications Commission is set to pass on a partisan 3-2 vote (Democrats vs Republicans)  a comprehensive set of rules to control the Internet, commonly called the "Net Neutrality" rules.

Although the FCC Commissioners are public servants, they have permitted very few members of the public to actually see what these rules are.  That should be a red flag for everyone. Another red flag is the fact that the FCC Chairman has refused to testify before Congress when invited to do so.

If the FCC is hiding what they are doing until after they make a decision, you can be sure that what they are doing is contrary to the interests of the public,  otherwise, "Why the secrecy?"

A former FCC Associate General Counsel raises the question "Is the FCC lawless?" suggesting the specter that "administrative law" is being used in a way to avoid the balance of powers crafted in the US Constitution. Longtime readers of this blog will remember the warning of the threat to our freedoms posed by administrative agencies, "The Ominous 4th Branch of Government."

An alleged "need" for these rules is the practice of certain Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to charge a premium to certain content providers that ensures a "fast lane" on their networks -- e.g. certain streaming services that use a lot of bandwidth.  The new rules would supposedly (assuming no waivers are given to the politically connected) prohibit the practice.

But why should the companies who paid for and constructed their very expensive networks not be able to control how their networks are used? If they cannot control their own property to ensure a return on investment, then private investment in networks will be discouraged.

Lack of investment in networks will result in deterioration of service as traffic increases unless the taxpayers are made to pay for same via the government.  But why should the taxpayers do this when the private sector has, to date,  met everyone's needs?

So far the internet works just fine, as suggested by a Republican FCC Commissioner, Agit Pai, who calls Net Neutrality "a solution that won't work to a problem that doesn't exist."

If there is a threat to the Internet that requires government intervention, it is the mergers of ISPs that reduce competition in the marketplace... But the government has been approving mergers left and right, perhaps because it is easier to control one or two big players than a multitude of lesser players.

It is the lack of internet regulation that makes the internet so useful -- it is freedom --  giving a voice to even the most minor of minority viewpoints.  

The Internet is not broken.  It does not need fixing.

Undoubtedly, with these rules, all that we have come to appreciate about the Internet will ultimately become undone.  Voices will be silenced . . . And the public will be left hearing only "government approved" viewpoints.


Anonymous said...

It escapes me how you can get to "the public will be left hearing only 'government approved' viewpoints" from ISPs controlling content by treating some providers differently than others. It sounds like the danger is that huge for-profit companies may decide what we can hear or see.

Strikeslip said...

Anonymous 1207 - I did not say that "'the public will be left hearing only government approved viewpoints' from ISPs controlling content by treating some providers differently than others."

I said that "the public will be left hearing only government approved viewpoints" due to these new regulations.

I do not have a problem with for-profit companies deciding what their customers can hear or see -- as long as their customers have alternative companies to choose from if they wish. If there is sufficient demand for a particular kind of information, a free market will eventually supply that demand.

For example, "huge company" Facebook controls the content that their members see through the algorithms they use to generate their members' newsfeeds which may elevate or bury certain voices. Facebook has also outright suspended accounts silencing certain voices. These actions may limit or make more difficult your or my access to certain content, but Facebook may want to maintain a certain environment for their patrons. It is their business so who are we not not to let them control it? We are free to get content via Google+, Twitter, Blogspot, etc. As long as we have alternative sources for information, we, the consumers, are protected.

Where have we been denied access to information by the fact that the Internet is largely unregulated? The fact that some ISPs have have created "fastlanes" for pay seems to bother some people, and is given as a reason for regulation, but why? Netflix may be able to afford a "fastlane" which might (1) slow down access to lesser players but (2) it *eases* access for those who want Netflix's content and are willing to pay for it. What interest should the government have in this?

To the extent we are forced to guess what government regulation of the Internet will look like, we need to look no further than the 50+ years of FCC's "Fairness Doctrine" that was imposed on broadcast media. Outlets were *required* to present "both sides" of issues, and were expected to prove same to the government. Think about the governor's debate a few years back with the prostitute, "rent is too high" guy, uncle Fenster, and a whole host of crackpots. Does the public really want to hear all that nonsense? They will tune out. Why should the government force media outlets to present viewpoints that the public has no interest in? The end result of the "Fairness Doctrine" was LESS discussion of issues because it became too burdensome on outlets to ensure that they presented "all sides".

The antidote is the free market place and competition . . . something that is already going on with the Internet we have.

The appropriate role of government is to prevent consolidations of companies that reduce competition, but the government has failed that task, probably intentionally.

The end result will be that policies claimed to be needed to make things "fair" will do the exact opposite -- and ensure that we will only hear "government approved" information.

Strikeslip said...

BTW -- Has anyone noticed the stories and viewpoints being presented in just the last few days suggesting that we need more government control over the internet to thwart terrorists?

The timing is "amazing!"

Austinwalker said...

I'm from the government and I'm here to help you.Your fee will be minute.