Net Neutrality has received insufficient coverage sadly, but in a nutshell it means the Federal Government, through the FCC now has the power to regulate the flow of information on the Internet through the various providers. This blatantly obscene power grab has been falsely advanced on the premise that ISP’s will discriminate against some web sites in favor of others, thereby creating a competitive imbalance. The FCC, by a partisan 3-2 vote took what it considers a preemptive strike. I say preemptive because there is no record of such discrimination.
For the sake of argument let us consider the frivolous decision. The fear is that providers might seek to charge some websites for access. Example: Netflix is a popular website and a huge site at that. The objection is that a provider might justify a charge given the high bandwidth they need to provide their service as opposed to smaller websites. There is no such shakedown on record, but so what? Why, in a free country would any company providing a service at a cost be denied the ability to charge those who access that service? Especially, if a larger online site impedes their customers from better and more efficient Internet access? Why shouldn’t sites like Netflix have to pay additional fees as directed if their service affects additional maintenance? Allowing ISP’s to charge would permit the respective providers to compete with each other. Many people like myself opt for satellite instead of cable because the cable network does not have the NFL Network. Why shouldn’t consumers be able to choose ISP’s based on their inter relationship with specific websites?
The FCC is poised incrementally to regress the greatest instrument to advance the cause of freedom since the printing press. It has set in motion an effort to treat the Internet as a utility, a public forum that all must be able to access as a right, rather than as a choice driven by individual priorities. The Internet, like television and radio is now viewed as a public necessity, thereby, progressively regulated so it may be fairly accessed by all. The inevitable result, I suspect is some form of subsidy for those who cannot afford it themselves, but that is speculative at best.
So why do we have an FCC at all? It exists because of the preposterous view that the “airwaves” are “public”. Why preposterous? Because no one owns the air or anything that traverses it. It is neither publicly owned nor privately purchased. Shouldn’t we have broadcast standards? Shouldn’t the public be shielded from what is considered obscene or indecent? In a word, no. Isn’t the idea of no broadcast standards radical? It’s only radical if you wish to limit individual freedom and desire to inhibit a corresponding sense of responsibility that accompanies maximized individual liberty. A free man or woman shuns what they find offensive without imposing it broadly upon others. If a free man, living in a free country is offended by the content on radio,television or the Internet, then he (or she) is free to divest themselves of the means by which the service is accessed. You don’t have a right to own a television, a radio or to surf the net. These are privileges that we earn from our labor, but such privileges accessed by the fruits of our labor have all too often served to establish broad and ultimately artificial standards of “decency”. You can change the channel, set up the V-Chip or just throw it out.
It isn’t easy deciding how to spend your hard earned dough, but most decisions come with positives and negatives. The easy way out is to impose universal standards and strip away choice. Ultimately, the choice regarding content and the means by which it enters your home is for the homeowner to determine, not a hegemonic government agency like the FCC.
The debate over “Net Neutrality” should conclude with the abolition of the FCC. Ultimately, everything that is regulated by the FCC is material we access in private settings. We access radio,television and the Internet at home or in the car and is therefore a matter of personal choice and privacy. The new regulations on the Internet like the existing regulations on television and radio are an invasion of privacy and therefore infringes on personal freedom.By regulating these industries we are passing the buck regarding personal responsibility. We have for generations permitted the FEDS to define “decency”, rather than accord it the individual attention it demands. By empowering the likes of the FCC, we have sought to absolve ourselves from hard choices. If the FCC can define “decency”, it can redefine it at its leisure.
There is sufficient reason to abolish the FCC on the merits. The Net Neutrality vote is a clear violation of the courts and Congress. I’m confident it will be undone. If we are serious it won’t end there. It will end when we abolish the FCC.