The Internet as it now exists with nominal government bureaucratic oversight has allowed the creation of billion-dollar companies like Google and Facebook and lets consumers even in remote parts of the landscape shop, watch videos and connect with others more or less instantly.
Just about anyone can set up a website, and it’s one of the few places in America where the sky’s the limit. Literally.
That, however, apparently is not good enough for President Obama, since the Federal Communications Commission is planning to adopt some 322 pages of secret rules to govern Web services.
L. Gordon Crovitz at the Wall Street Journal said the so-called “net neutrality” campaign could be called “Obamacare for the Internet,” but that would be “unfair to Obamacare.”
The Internet rules, which have been kept secret, are scheduled to face a vote by the Federal Communications Commission Thursday. They force massive regulation on the huge Web industry, he said.
Officials say they are based on a 1934 utility regulating plan, and unless Congress or the courts block the rules, “it will be the end of the Internet as we know it,” Crovitz wrote.
As late as Monday, two of the five FCC commissioners were asking for the rules to be delayed and the public given an opportunity to see and comment on them. Perhaps the requests are at least partly in the hope that the board will get it right this time, unlike earlier instances in which plans have been adopted only to the thrown out by the courts.
On Tuesday, the Hill reported one of the three Democrats on the five-member FEC commission was so unhappy she was asking for changes.
The changes from Mignon Clyburn would leave in place the central and most controversial component of Chairman Tom Wheeler’s rules, the Hill said, “the notion that broadband Internet service should be reclassified so that it can be treated as a ‘telecommunications’ service under Title II of the Communications Act, similar to utilities like phone lines.”
But Clyburn wants to “eliminate a new legal category of ‘broadband subscriber access services,’ which was created as an additional point of legal authority for the FCC to monitor the ways that companies hand off traffic on the back end of the Internet,” the report said.
Others were demanding that the FCC release a copy of the rules for the public to see. The commission now is not scheduled to release them until after it votes, not unlike then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s statement that Congress would have to adopt Obamacare so the people could find out what was in it.
USA Today reported Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, chairman of the House Oversight Committee, was questioning whether the FCC has been “independent, fair and transparent” in making the new rules.
His letter to the FCC noted the process “was conducted without using many of the tools at the chairman’s disposal to ensure transparency and public review.”
The premise behind “net neutrality” is that the Web is a mess and large corporations are abusing consumers, manipulating their data, putting their Web needs behind those who pay more. The only solution, the thinking goes, is for the government to take control.
Supporters of the regulations are hard to find, but the far-left American Civil Liberties Union posted a list of the “abuses” it has found.
For example, it cited AT&T’s “jamming” of a rock star’s political protest, Comcast’s “throttling” of online file-sharing, work by Verizon to cut off a program containing what it considered “unsavory” content and others.
But even the ACLU site noted that AT&T said its decision was a mistake and it would work to fix it, Comcast’s fight continues in federal courts and Verizon reversed its censorship “after widespread public outrage.”
The solutions in each case included public pressure.
The organization said “net neutrality” is just applying age-old rules regarding common resources, like canal systems, railroads, public highways and telephone and telephone networks, to the Web.
But Ajit Pai and Lee Goodman, two of the FCC commissioners, wrote in Politico that the freedom that exists on the Internet right now “has given the American people unprecedented access to information and an amazing array of opportunities to speak, debate and connect with one another.”
The real reason for the proposed rules, they wrote, is the perception on the part of some that freedom is “a vacuum in need of government control.”
They warn it will start with regulation of rates for access.
“It will institutionalize innovation by permission – giving advisory opinions on prospective business plans or practices (and companies will ask before innovating for fear of what will happen if they don’t).”
Online traffic will have to handled in prescribed manners, and trial lawyers will cash in with class-action lawsuits over the rules.
They continued: “The purpose is control for control’s sake. Digital dysfunction must be conjured into being to justify a public-sector power grab. Aside from being a bad deal for everyone who relies on the Internet, this Beltway-centric plan also distracts the FCC from what it should be focusing on: increasing broadband competition and giving consumers better broadband choices.”
For examples of what government’s micromanagement of the Internet might look like, some analysts said, people should look at Amtrak and the U.S. Postal Service.
At Techzone360, John Wind wrote: “The reason there are so many successful Internet companies such as Google, Facebook, Netflix, etc., is that they started with a blank slate and created a new and better way to create and deliver products and services.”
He pointedly noted: “They didn’t try to amend an 80-year-old FCC law. They had a fresh start.”
He explained that the providers must be able to survive financially to have an effective Internet.
Regulated fees will come, the NSA will be watching and there will be taxation “at every level,” he summarized.
“The FCC and net neutrality is not the right answer. Let’s get it right this time,” he said.
Fox News denior judicial analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano expects the courts to dash the Obama administration’s hopes and plans anyway.
In an interview conducted for WND by Radio America’s Greg Corombos, he said: “People don’t know the danger that is coming. The danger that is coming is a gaggle of bureaucrats here – three Democrats and two Republicans, the Republicans will probably dissent – claiming they have the power to regulate the Internet.”
He said Congress has passed no statute authorizing new government controls on the Internet, and the First Amendment clearly states that neither Congress nor any government agency it created can make a law restricting the freedom of speech.
“They claim that the purpose of their regulation is to prevent the Internet from affording priority and faster service to certain preferred users,” Napolitano explained. “Would we all like to have fast service? Yes. Do we all know how to get fast service? Yes, we do. Might that cost us something? Yes, it might, but at the present time it is free from government regulation.”
He said the actual plan, however, is far different.
“If the government regulates the Internet and tells providers how fast they can move information, we will soon see the government regulating the cost of the Internet and we will eventually, just like with broadcast television, see the government regulating the content of the Internet,” Napolitano said.
The issue of Internet regulation has been pending for more than a decade, and so far some 4 million members of the public have commented.
WND has reported that Obama is using net neutrality as part of his effort to establish a success for his second term in office.
But his lobbying has generated a negative response many times.
“It’s not 1934, and we are not dealing with telephones you hold in two parts,” Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said earlier.
“I’m proud of the work Senate Republicans have done to lay out an agenda for encouraging growth and innovation here in America, and we must defend against the use of a decades-old regulatory framework that would hurt that progress,” Hatch said.
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, released a one-liner that reverberated around the Web: “The Internet should not operate at the speed of government.”
Several attempts to impose regulations already have been struck down by the courts.
And House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., said earlier the plan is just fine if you like “unnecessary government interference.”
“The Internet’s revolutionary success is due in large part to an entrepreneurialism that adapts and innovates freely as the Internet evolves,” he said. “A free and open Internet allows Americans to operate their small businesses, communicate freely, and stay competitive in a changing global economy. Instead of bowing to political pressure from the president, the FCC should take into account the strong bipartisan support for keeping the Internet free and open.”
Jim Lakely, the Heartland Institute’s director of communications, says Obama “doesn’t understand how the Internet works, or how it became a technological wonder and an economic powerhouse.”
“The president’s call for the FCC to apply Title II regulations to broadband would put all the progress in our digital economy at risk by applying 19th-century regulatory thinking to a 21st-century technology,” he said.