The first thing to know about net neutrality: it ain't neutral.
Net neutrality is a confusing name to obscure that what is really meant is government control of the internet, which has become such an economic and intellectual force precisely because it has not suffered from the kind of government “oversight” that cripples other sectors of the economy.
But this could change. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, whom President Obama named to the FCC, wants to apply Depression-era laws to turn the internet into a public utility regulated by the government.
I urge you to read a column in today’s Wall Street Journal by former FCC commissioner Robert M. McDowell on the coming battle over net neutrality. It notes:
The Federal Communications Commission is about to answer the most important question in its 80-year history: Does the agency intend to protect the open Internet, or is it lunging to seize unlimited power over the Web? We’ll find out on Feb. 26 when the FCC votes on “net-neutrality” rules that would treat the Internet like a public utility, with regulators potentially setting rates, terms and conditions for providers. …
For years Washington has debated how to keep the Internet open and free from government or private coercion. Regulation proponents have argued that new rules are needed to prevent Internet service providers, such as phone, wireless and cable companies, from blocking or degrading the online content or applications consumers want. Though no market failure exists, and regulators have never conducted a study to diagnose the alleged potential illness, the FCC has twice tried to impose new rules on the Web. Each time it lost in court.
The tragedy of this debate is that no one, including phone, wireless and cable companies, has ever contested the goals of keeping the Internet open. It has been open and freedom-enhancing since it was privatized in the mid-1990s because it is protected under existing antitrust and consumer-protection laws. Instead, the fight has been over how much regulatory power the FCC should wield.
If the internet is regulated as a public utility, you can kiss the freedom to innovate it has provided good-bye. You can also expect to pay more for your internet service. Know all those inscrutable charges tacked onto a phone bill? Expect them on your IT bill if Chairman Wheeler and the Obama administration have their way.