FRONT PAGE CONTRIBUTOR
Tech at Night: Welcome to Net Neutrality
Good evening. I’m going to start tonight with a clarification from Friday. While I identified last week’s Net Neutrality push poll with Consumer Reports, the poll was actually signed on by CR’s publisher, Consumers Union, and conducted by the Consumer Federation of America. As that one television network says, I have now made a report, and you can decide for yourself what to make of it.
Meanwhile we still have a bunch of Net Neutrality fighting going on. Republicans are on to something with the Congressional Review Act plan of repeal, and the forces of Net Neutrality are worried. Al Franken wants to start putting people in jail over it, this despite the FCC’s failure even to publish the rules of the Net Neutrality game.
Remember when Net Neutrality proponents were so adamant that they weren’t a bunch of freeloading sponges on the productive members of society, despite their strong efforts to give regulatory support to freeloaders? Now look at what NN proponent Barry Diller says about content providers under Net Neutrality: “Asking Netflix to pay more for bandwidth is like “asking a toaster manufacturer to pay for electricity.”
Funny thing is though, people do pay for electricity, and generally they precisely for how much they use. Is Diller suggesting that every Netflix user should have to pay for Netflix’s ISP services as well as their own, directly and not through Netflix as reasonable middleman? Or are we supposed to conclude that Netflix, Google, or (Barry Diller’s own) IAC should get free Internet access, while poor inner city youths have to pay? Or is this the wedge toward total socialized Internet? I’m lost. I can’t tell if Diller wants free stuff or is just promoting a terribly inefficient means of paying for Internet use.
Despite all that though, Republicans march on to do the right thing, with the Net Neutrality disapproval resolution going to full committee for a vote Tuesday, where it’s virtually certain to pass. Though unlike in the subcommittee, it may not be a party line vote. Two Democrats, Collin Peterson of Minnesota and Dan Boren of Oklahoma, have joined in a Dear Colleague letter asking for support for an open Internet free of burdensome, innovation-killing regulation.
Seton Motley of Less Government suggests one basic issue with the FCC is a perversion of the concept of public interest, illustrated most recently in FCC stonewalling of a proposed AT&T/Qualcomm deal. Says Motley:
We must return to the correct definition of the public interest standard. Agreements should be quickly approved – unless clear evidence of demonstrable harm to the public interest is presented. There was no such evidence with Comcast/NBC, and there is none with AT&T/Qualcomm.
These fringe, Leftist grievance groups find fault with nearly every free market transaction – because they are free market transactions. That doesn’t mean the FCC should listen to them – or incessantly do their bidding.
The FCC is not supposed to be a replacement for free markets and property rights.
Unfortunately while we fight Net Neutrality, ISPs like AT&T must continue to deal with the possibility of it being held against them. AT&T already was forced to end its offering of unlimited wireless bandwidth, and now they’re ending the same option for wired Internet access. When ISPs cannot route traffic selectively, making sure the 98% of reasonable customers are not harmed by the 2% who are causing trouble with unreasonable and even illegal traffic, then ISPs only have one recourse left: blanket restrictions that hold everyone back. Welcome to Net Neutrality, where everything is metered, and carefully.