Both conservatives and progressives believe the Internet should remain free. But they have very different views about the potential threats to Internet freedom, which is what tends to drive disagreements on policy.
This is a very important article, one that deserves more attention than I can give it here. I hope you read it.
According to Fred Campbell, writing for The Atlantic,
Conservatives generally believe that governments are the primary threat to Internet freedom. The Internet became a global engine of economic growth, political discourse, and cultural transformation without centralized governance of its technologies or access policies. The highly decentralized nature of the Internet means that no single individual or company can dictate its future. Even the wealthiest private company in the world cannot force people to buy its products and services, prevent people from buying the products or services of its competitors, levy fines and taxes on the people, send people to prison, or declare war.
Whereas the progressives have their own definition:
Progressives generally believe corporations and property owners are equally as dangerous to the Internet as the government. In their view, regulation is necessary because government is the only guarantor against private threats to Internet freedom. Their ultimate goal is for the government to treat the Internet as a public utility subject to the same 1930s-style regulations that supported the Ma Bell telephone monopoly for decades. That’s why progressive advocates often analogize the Internet to public utilities like the electricity grid, waterworks, roadways, and the analog telephone system.
And there it is, in plain view: conservatives (I am one) believe in property rights and free markets. Progressives believe in total government control, all in the name of freedom. Individual rights don’t matter. It’s all about “collective” rights.
Thanks, Mr. Campbell, for a well-crafted and important article on internet freedom.
For a more detailed look at the parallels between “Net Neutrality” and the Ma Bell monopoly, read this article.