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The Internet is a flywheel of innovation, changing virtually every aspect of life in the nation, from commerce through entertainment and certainly journalism. The Internet was not invented by Al Gore, vice-president of the United States under Bill Clinton. But now president Barack Obama, in the wake of a mid-term election defeat, wants to make the Internet look like something that Al Gore might indeed have designed. In typical style, government is disguising this regulatory surge with a misleading label.
As Jim Puzzanghera of the Los Angeles Times puts it, President Obama has “called on federal regulators to toughen proposed net-neutrality rules for Internet traffic, including taking the controversial step of changing the way the law treats broadband providers so they are subject to stricter utility-like regulation.” So it’s a regulatory issue, but government spins it as “net neutrality” though it’s anything but. If government were to be truly neutral, it would leave the Internet alone in the marketplace and let consumers decide. Through the Federal Communications Commission, it wants to impose regulations more suited to the telephone industry, making the Internet, in effect, a public utility.
“Nothing is neutral in a free market economy,” explains Gene Marks in Forbes, “which is why ‘net neutrality’ is a dumb idea.” As Marks notes, demanding that Internet access be provided at the same cost to everyone “is like demanding to pay the same for a room at the Hampton Inn or the Ritz Carlton.” Therefore, “If people want a better location they have to pay more. Why would the Internet be any different? There’s no such thing as neutral.” Marks is right, but government regulators don’t see it that way.
FCC boss Tom Wheeler welcomes the Obama regulatory surge and told reporters, “We must take the time to get the job done correctly, once and for all, in order to successfully protect consumers and innovators online.” Imposing more federal government regulation will protect only federal regulators. Regulation disguised as neutrality will neuter innovation, impose higher costs, and generally abuse Americans.