The internet just got less free and we should all be very concerned.

Do remember when Al Gore claimed he created the Internet?

Just as farcical is the federal government’s claim that the Internet (formerly known as the information superhighway) is a public utility like telephones. That was the rationale for the FCC’s vote yesterday to regulate the internet as it sees fit. That regulation opens the door to setting prices and monitoring. I bet you didn’t realize that you needed government regulation to get recipes from Pinterest or put up blogs.

The Internet has flourished -creating from nothing countless new enterprises that change the way we share our lives, our stories, and our ideas. We fulfill our dreams or solve problems thanks to the internet. We conduct business, start movements, and improve the lives of our fellow human beings all free from the heavy-hand of federal mandates – until now.

Yesterday, the FCC approved new “Open Internet” rules — along with their favored “net neutrality” an Orwellian descriptive—that will control the way providers sell Internet services. They also prohibit broadband providers from selling fast-lane, priority services to content companies like Netflix.

Many on the Left have pushed this agenda.The President even penned a thank-you note on the blog sharing website Reddit, to those (mostly left-leaning activists) who flooded the FCC’s website with comments in support of the agency’s new rules. The courts have previously ruled the FCC’s efforts to impose “net neutrality” out of bounds, so the battle isn’t over.

Net neutrality is the principle that Internet service providers and governments must treat all data equally and must not decide what to charge based on a business decision, charging differentially by user, content, site, platform, application, type of attached equipment, or mode of communication. To stop what proponents claim is discrimination at the hands of utility companies, enter Big Government. Some established businesses, realizing that regulation will be to their advantage, have lined up to support net neutrality regulation.

On the opposite side are supporters of a free internet driven by free markets.  Opponents include hardware companies and members of the cable and telecommunications industries, including major telecommunications providers, such as AT&T. 

My colleague Charlotte explained the net neutrality power grab recently: “The rationale for regulating competition and handicapping start-ups is that infrastructure is so important that it simply must be under the control of the government. Companies such as Google, this argument implies, cannot be trusted to determine what businesses they might want to partner with but need the federal bureaucrat to decide such matters.”

If net neutrality instinctively feels like icky public sector tampering in the private market place to deliver what it considers  equality, then you’re on the right track.  

So what does this mean today? While the regulations will take months before they go into effect and there will be costly legal battles along the way, and consumers won’t see immediate results of yesterday’s vote, they will likely eventually see higher costs for internet service.  Bloomberg reports:

Internet providers say the reclassification of broadband service could also lead to a flurry of new state and federal fees like those attached to mobile phone and natural gas service. Will you now pay a new user fee for home broadband purchased from Comcast or AT&T? A report (PDF) in December from the Progressive Policy Institute, a Washington think tank, argued that this outcome is inevitable and calculated a jump in annual bills from $8 in Delaware to as much as $148 in parts of Alaska, based on the current prices and fees.

Amid all the rhetoric from both sides, it’s interesting to note that one sizable broadband seller, Long Island-based Cablevision Systems, isn’t fazed by the ruling. “The idea of more regulation is never great for us,” Chief Executive Officer James Dolan said on Wednesday during an earnings call. “But to be honest, we don’t really see … any real effect on our business. So therefore, we’re sort of neutral.”

Millions of Americans are the same—at least for now.

But that's not all. What seems like a simple ruling on a complex issue is a cloak covering what we really lost: freedom. We ceded ground to a pro-government juggernaut that threatens to trample on our individual liberty. As National Review explains:

Back in the 1990s, the Clinton administration teamed up with Internet pioneers to promote a hands-off approach to the new industry and keep it free from discriminatory taxation. Many still prefer that policy…

But such voices have been drowned out by left-wing activists who want to manage the Internet to achieve their political objectives. The most influential of these congregate around the deceptively named Free Press, a liberal lobby co-founded in 2002 by Robert McChesney, a University of Illinois communications professor.

His goals have always been clear. “At the moment, the battle over network neutrality is not to completely eliminate the telephone and cable companies,” he told the website SocialistProject in 2009. “But the ultimate goal is to get rid of the media capitalists in the phone and cable companies and to divest them from control.” Earlier in 2000, he told the Marxist magazine Monthly Review: “Our job is to make media reform part of our broader struggle for democracy, social justice, and, dare we say it, socialism.”

This has been a decade-long fight. 

However, the fight is not over. More is at stake than just a few dollars on our bills. Freedom of the internet, innovation, entrepreneurship, and small business creation hang in the balance.