This article first appeared at The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Friday, February 6, 2015:
If the real intentions behind the benign phrase “net neutrality” were truly exposed, the conversation would be very short. As Will Durant noted in his The Story of Philosophy:
“If you wish to converse with me,” said Voltaire, “define your terms.” How many debates would have been deflated into a paragraph if the disputants had dared to define their terms! This is the alpha and omega of logic, the heart and soul of it, that every important term in serious discourse shall be subjected to the strictest scrutiny and definition. It is difficult, and ruthlessly tests the mind; but once done it is half of any task.
Opponents in the freedom fight have for years used obfuscation and false front words to advance their cause, but none more effectively than its term “net neutrality.” How could anyone object to that? It’s a benign beige phrase that surely can’t threaten us or risk our freedom of communication. After all, the Internet has been a key resource in advancing the freedom conversation for decades and some have likened its influence to that of the Gutenberg Press. Surely the FCC means us no harm.
On Thursday those innocents are about to get a dose of reality when FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler rolls out his new “net neutrality” rules for the Internet, as bidden by his boss, Mr. Obama. They want to change ISPs (internet service providers) from “information services” to “telecommunications companies” in order to impose, by force, rules to keep them from serving their customers in ways that they deem best.
Some of those providers, knowing that in the free market the customer is king, have installed variable pricing models to serve them better: by paying more they get better faster service. Called “paid prioritization,” the statists in charge consider this discriminatory and something must be done! By putting ISPs into the heavily regulated category of telecommunications companies – essentially turning the Internet into a utility – then Thursday’s new rules will solve that problem.
The president made it clear what his marching orders were for his FCC chairman back in November:
We cannot allow Internet service providers to restrict the best access or to pick winners and losers in the online marketplace for services and ideas….
If a consumer requests access to a website or service … your ISP should not be permitted to block it. Nor should ISPs be able to intentionally slow down some content or speed up others … based on the type of service or your ISP’s preferences.
In a free market this isn’t a problem. If a customer is offended by limitations at one ISP, it’s easy to switch to another. It’s called choice. To Obama and his chairman, it’s called discrimination, and must be stamped out.
Last summer an outfit called the Internet Association put together some comments on why “net neutrality” was such a good idea and launched a massive social media campaign to pressure the FCC into adopting it. It’s a 23-page document that most won’t read or, if they do, they’ll never get to page 16 where the real intent is finally revealed:
The Internet association encourages the Commission to … [announce rules that] should prohibit broadband Internet access providers from charging a content, application, or service provider for enhanced or prioritized access to [their] subscribers….
Without those rules, continued prioritization by ISPs would be disastrous, said the document:
Allowing for prioritization will introduce artificial barriers to entry, distort the market, and discourage innovation.
This, according to Michael Rozeff, a retired economics professor at the University of Buffalo, is plain unadulterated malarkey:
What they’re lobbying for is price controls and product controls. Net neutrality means price and product controls.
Robert Wenzel, editor and publisher of the Economic Policy Journal, said such rules would have to be enforced by threats:
Net neutrality is the idea that Internet service providers should be forced by government to treat all data on the Internet equally – that is, the government plays the role of enforcer by not allowing ISPs to discriminate or charge differentially by user, content, platform, application, type of … equipment, [or] modes of communication….
The government should keep its hands off ISPs and allow them to operate any way they want. The ISPs …are providing a service and should be allowed to … provide their service in any fashion they choose without interference from the government.
Just as the media has removed the term “ObamaCare” from the lexicon and replaced it with the innocuous and benign “Affordable Care Act,” so has “net neutrality” been developed to avoid calling it what it really is: ObamaCare for the Internet.
Three times courts have tossed efforts by the FCC to change the classification affecting ISPs and Thursday’s effort will be its fourth. Five times Congress has voted down “net neutrality” bills, but the new Congress is sure to be faced with another opportunity to do so.
By using false phrases like “net neutrality” the conversation is lasting much longer than it otherwise would.
Robert Wenzel: On Net Neutrality
Michael Rozeff: Against Net Neutrality