Internet Freedom at Risk

by: Les Carpenter
Rational Nation USA

Rational Nation has posted in the past on the issue of freedom in the press and the internet. I have commented on the progressives desire to control information through either the the Fairness Doctrine and or the so called Net Neutrality. These articles can be found here and here.

These concerns reached a new heightened level Monday with the the FCC's plans to take steps to significantly increase the feds reach into the internet by expanding its regulatory control. The following is an excerpt from Robert M. McDowell's op ed article in the Wall Street Journal. As the article points out the ramifications of such intrusion into the internet should alarm us all.

Tomorrow morning the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will mark the winter solstice by taking an unprecedented step to expand government's reach into the Internet by attempting to regulate its inner workings. In doing so, the agency will circumvent Congress and disregard a recent court ruling.
How did the FCC get here?
For years, proponents of so-called "net neutrality" have been calling for strong regulation of broadband "on-ramps" to the Internet, like those provided by your local cable or phone companies. Rules are needed, the argument goes, to ensure that the Internet remains open and free, and to discourage broadband providers from thwarting consumer demand. That sounds good if you say it fast.
Nothing is broken that needs fixing, however. The Internet has been open and freedom-enhancing since it was spun off from a government research project in the early 1990s. Its nature as a diffuse and dynamic global network of networks defies top-down authority. Ample laws to protect consumers already exist. Furthermore, the Obama Justice Department and the European Commission both decided this year that net-neutrality regulation was unnecessary and might deter investment in next-generation Internet technology and infrastructure.
Analysts and broadband companies of all sizes have told the FCC that new rules are likely to have the perverse effect of inhibiting capital investment, deterring innovation, raising operating costs, and ultimately increasing consumer prices. Others maintain that the new rules will kill jobs. By moving forward with Internet rules anyway, the FCC is not living up to its promise of being "data driven" in its pursuit of mandates—i.e., listening to the needs of the market.
It wasn't long ago that bipartisan and international consensus centered on insulating the Internet from regulation. This policy was a bright hallmark of the Clinton administration, which oversaw the Internet's privatization. Over time, however, the call for more Internet regulation became imbedded into a 2008 presidential campaign promise by then-Sen. Barack Obama. So here we are.
The full text can be found here.

This issue sure ought to be of more concern than the FLOTUS's attempt to educate on the dangers of childhood obesity.

Via: Memeorandum


  1. Thank you for giving this issue a prominent place.

    Net neutrality is an important issue complicated by two things: its technical content, and its fuzzy name.

    With respect to the former, if I start talking about the industry-standard peering agreement for digital traffic exchange between Comcast and Level 3, people will begin to lose consciousness.

    With respect to the latter, "net neutrality" sounds like a good thing. Yeah man, treat all traffic equally, who can argue with that?

    The thing that people need to keep in mind is that while the FCC will be releasing a sweeping Notice of Proposed Rulemaking re Net Neutrality on December 21, the FCC is not acting in response to a crisis, but in response to breathless hypotheticals about what *might* happen if the government does not get involved.

    Despite what the proponents of net neutrality lead you to believe, there is no epidemic of discriminatory treatment of internet traffic. Companies in charge of networks are not behaving anti-competitively, the free flow of information is not being tampered with.

    The servers and cables that make up the internet are owned by private companies who want to turn a profit, and in their quest to generate returns to their shareholders they have built out networks that allow us to live tremendous portions of our lives online, for good or for ill. Ten years ago, few of could have imagined the digital lives we live today.

    And yet the FCC insists there is a problem, and that they are the only ones who can solve it, despite repeated instruction from Congress and from the Courts that they have neither jurisdiction nor permission.

    It is a naked grab for power on the part of the FCC and its Democratic enablers in D.C., born of the presumption that business can not be allowed to operate without government control, and that corporations are inherently evil.

    What happens if the FCC net neutrality rules are approved? Nothing, immediately. The rules will be litigated for years. But the uncertainty and the threat of regulation will dampen investment in broadband infrastructure, the pace of digital progress will slow and we will all be the worse off.

  2. I hate to be overly pessimistic, but I can't help but feel that we're starting to see the beginning of the end of the great experiment in freedom of expression known as the internet. It has long flown in the face of ever-expanding government regulation, and caused much consternation for both repressive regimes and control-hungry media corporations, mainly due to the technical and legal challenges and regulation. However, both of these are slowly being overcome, and within the next 5-10 years, the internet could cease to be a medium for the free flow of ideas, and be relegated to a sterilized wasteland of oversight and liability.

    You can already see the seeds of destruction being sown. Political dissident speech? Take the servers offline and/or confiscate them, sighting anti-terrorism laws. Sharing media files? Not without sign-off from the copyright holders in all jurisdictions, cc-ed to your ISP or hosting provider to cover their liability exposure (ie: not going to happen). Running a business with an online presence? Better hope your competitors don't donate more money to the party in charge (see the FBI raid in Texas for a recent real-world example of this).

    Governments around the world are eager to control the content on the internet, but don't worry: they have a stellar track record of working together and only disrupting commerce and the flow of information as much as is absolutely necessary for the protection of vital essentials; like, for example, the reputation of politicians, the ubiquity of the lies they tell, and the right to put you in jail if they don't like what you say. I, for one, am taking advantage of the internet while it lasts, but I'm not naive: some day soon, it too will fall to the vast, insatiable government hunger for totalitarian control.

  3. What I find fascinating is that this important issue with respect to freedom of information draws less comment than Sarah (the golden twit) Palin's cockamamie concern with Michelle Obama's FOCUS ON THE DANGERS OF CHILDHOOD OBESITY.

    We do indeed live in an upside down world!


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