FRONT PAGE CONTRIBUTOR
On Julius Genachowski and Net Neutrality
I am in danger of becoming a broken record on the issue of Net Neutrality in this space, but as aggressively as the Democrats are pushing the issue, it is a danger we all will have to live with. Once again, I will summarize the issue with a minimum of technological impediments to understanding:
Net Neutrality started out as a broad-based movement on the Internet. It wasn’t a left-wing thing at all, but rather was something most of us could support, because it was merely a movement to ensure (usually government franchise-backed) ISP firms could not abuse their monopoly or oligopoly power to coerce their customers to use other services by the firm, such as phone service in the case of AT&T or television service in the case of Comcast. I believe this is a reasonable request. It doesn’t prevent investors in Internet technology from profiting, but rather merely prevents them from abusing government-granted market power to benefit other businesses.
However on Monday, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski went beyond that when he outlined his six principles of Net Neutrality in a speech to the Brookings Institution. What he proposes is an intrusive, never-ending government hand in the growth and management of the Internet, one that is clearly aimed at the Socialist goal of “single-payer Internet,” run with the same agile reactiveness as the DMV or the TSA.
He starts off innocently enough when he speaks of “non-discrimination,” and in fact says the right things about an important problem:
The fifth principle is one of non-discrimination — stating that broadband provider cannot discriminate against particular Internet content or applications. This means they cannot block or degrade lawful traffic over their networks, or pick winners by favoring some content or applications over others in the connection to subscribers’ homes. Nor can they disfavor an Internet service just because it competes with a similar service offered by that broadband provider.
This is all true. If Genachowski stopped here, I would not oppose him. I don’t agree that the FCC must act in this space; rather I believe the answer to this problem lies at the state level. Ending or reworking franchise monopolies and duopolies on phone and cable television would go further in fixing the problem government created, than creating more new government.
The FCC Chairman does not stop there, though. He goes on to speak of how government needs to play an active role in monitoring all network maintenance activities and configurations of ISPs and their infrastructure, in the name of “transparency:”
We cannot afford to rely on happenstance for consumers, businesses, and policymakers to learn about changes to the basic functioning of the Internet. Greater transparency will give consumers the confidence of knowing that they’re getting the service they’ve paid for, enable innovators to make their offerings work effectively over the Internet, and allow policymakers to ensure that broadband providers are preserving the Internet as a level playing field. It will also help facilitate discussion among all the participants in the Internet ecosystem, which can reduce the need for government involvement in network management disagreements.
In this fairly harmless-sounding paragraph lies much danger. For one of the aims of the socialist perversion of Net Neutrality is to prohibit ISPs from offering different “tiers” of service, giving customers who pay more money a higher priority over other customers. Should Genachowski get his way, regulators would be positioned to prohibit that, just as the far left internet users want. You see, people who download lots of things off of YouTube and the Pirate Bay, as well as firms like Google who seek to make money off of services like YouTube, would benefit if ISPs are required to offer all customers an “all you can eat” plan. Such plans effectively force casual, low-intensity users to subsidize the constant downloaders. Great for some, terrible for others, and totally inappropriate for government to mandate.
Further, Genachowski attacks the fundamental right of property owners to control their property when he says this. He openly acknowledges that he wants the FCC to have an active role in resolving “network management disagreements,” in which outsiders can complain to the FCC about a private computer network’s configuration. Presumably the FCC would then grant itself the power to compel holders of networks to change such configurations on demand. Why else demand transparency if not to start making changes?
The Internet is not a single network. It is a network of networks, all of which talk to each other through standardized protocols. When I send this post to RedState, for example, it will travel over five different networks: Mine, Verizon, Alter.net, Level 3, and ThePlanet. This is not an ecosystem. This is a neighborhood, with property lines that are clearly drawn.
Genachowski is showing himself to be a tool of the radical left when he attempts to use the Net Neutrality banner to conquer the whole Internet, or at least the US-based parts of it, and put them under total government control. He must be stopped.