In a matter of hours, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will be voting to implement unprecedented regulatory authority over the Internet. What started out as a debate over a simple law that would prevent Internet Service Providers from requiring fees from content providers in order to get the bandwidth necessary to get their content to end users has morphed into a massive government power grab, with the FCC pushing to regulate the Internet as a public utility. All we know so far is that there are over 300 pages of proposed regulations. Very few (if anyone) outside of the FCC and the White House knows just what those regulations will entail.
Mozilla, makers of the Firefox browser, have been pushing a petition encouraging the FCC to pass its new regulatory measures. The petition talks about how "the Web is a global engine of innovation and entrepreneurship - a level playing field from which we can learn, connect and create." It speaks out against "restricting freedom of choice online" and further states that "there should be no blocking and discrimination of content online."
But the FCC's regulations were built in the dark. While we might know at a theoretical level what we want from Net Neutrality, we have no idea what we'll actually be getting...and if the FCC takes action to regulate the Internet as a public utility, we have no way of knowing what shape that will take in the future. With their petition, Mozilla shows an alarming naivete, blindly assuming that regulations they've never seen will do exactly what they want, and won't morph into something even worse as time goes on. Didn't we learn this same lesson from Obamacare? Nancy Pelosi told us we had to pass the bill so we could find out what was in it. They passed that bill, and millions of people found out (too late) that they don't like it. Back then, President Obama told us "If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor." Now he's saying "If you like your Internet, you can keep your Internet." We don't need to fall for the same BS twice.
If you believe that "there should be no blocking and discrimination of content online," then you should want to keep the government as far away from Internet regulation as possible.
A lot of people these days don't remember a little thing called the Fairness Doctrine. This was a set of rules that the FCC applied to radio and television broadcast licensing which limited what broadcasters could and couldn't say over the airwaves. The assumption behind the entire scheme is that the government owns the airwaves, and as such, the government can set out certain requirements for anyone licensed to use those airwaves, including restricting speech.
If the Internet becomes a public utility, how long will it be before you have to get a license from the government in order to have a website? It's not that much of a stretch. You have to be licensed with the government in order to drive on public roadways. You have to be licensed with the government in order to operate a business (even if it's just a lemonade stand
). You have to be licensed with the government in order to work in certain professions. More specifically, you have to be licensed by the FCC to broadcast on the radio or television. And with all of these licenses, of course, come massive fees to feed the government bureaucracy, and the assumption that the FCC can regulate content for license-holders.
And perhaps the most frightening thing about the Fairness Doctrine is that while it isn't in effect right now, there is very little preventing it from being re-implemented. It was dropped as FCC policy during the Reagan Administration, but there is very little in the way of legislation or jurisprudence preventing the Doctrine's reinstatement. In fact, Democrats have tried several times to pass laws that would re-instate the Fairness Doctrine. They would love for it to come back, of course, because it would effectively crush conservative media, which has flourished since the Doctrine was done away with in 1985.
The road to Internet speech restrictions is already being paved. As the FCC prepares to vote on its Internet power grab, the Federal Elections Commission
is chomping at the bit to regulate political speech on the Internet, working on their plans even as the FCC prepares for its vote. Since the FEC already regulates political donations made on the Internet, there can only be one conclusion: they want to censor online political speech.
Pushing Internet regulation through the FCC is the Obama Administration's way of circumventing Congress to get what it wants, but make no mistake: all that will come of this push for "Net Neutrality" is the end of freedom in what is one of the last bastions of freedom left in America. At this point, we have no way of knowing what is in the 332 pages of proposed regulations, but the fact that two out of the five commissioners (one Republican
and one Democrat
) are protesting the massive scope of the regulations bodes ill for the American public.
SIGN THE PETITION TO KEEP THE FCC AWAY FROM THE INTERNET!