If you liked Obamacare, you’ll love “Obamanet” would seem to be the message the president sent from China this week. Referring to the discussion underway surrounding “Net Neutrality”, Obama’s statement sought to relieve the market place of one more burdensome task.
His written statement said in part, “We cannot allow Internet service providers (ISPs) to restrict the best access or to pick winners and losers in the online marketplace for services and ideas” .Tom Wheeler, FCC chairman appointed by Mr. Obama, expressed agreement with the president that “the Internet must remain an open platform for free expression, innovation and economic growth.” Wheeler, whose decision it will be, expressed caution about possible legal challenges.
A complete analysis of the question would take us deep into the digital weeds, so let’s look at a couple of things that proponents of NN emphasize as justification for this kind of government intervention. The first is Tiered Services which are the service level choices offered by Internet Service Providers (ISP) to consumers. It is the mechanism by which a wireless purveyor may charge for phone service based on minutes used or it may be seen in the choice of type of internet access like broad band. The term applies to a vast array of choices at the user’s disposal. The higher the level of service selected, the higher the cost.
Backers of NN project Tiered Services as a tool for limiting access thereby creating Artificial Scarcity and the maintenance of artificially high prices.
The first plank in the U.N. protocol reads, “Network neutrality is the principal whereby internet traffic shall be transmitted without undue discrimination, restriction or interference so that end-users are able to send and receive content of their choice: use the services or run applications of their choice; connect equipment and use the programs of their choice provided that the aforementioned activities are legal and do not harm networks.”
That begs the question as to who will determine what is undue discrimination etc?The U.N.? Or will we create an Internet Czar reporting to the president? Determining which activities are legal looks like it could be a whole new “full employment program for lawyers”.
A group calling itself, “Hands off the Internet” describes itself as “a nationwide coalition of internet users united together in the belief that the Net’s phenomenal growth over the past decade stems from the ability of entrepreneurs to expand consumer choices and opportunities without worrying about government regulation.”
Opponents point out that regulations add cost and can become a barrier to entry. Further, regulations favor entrenched, large companies with the resources for compliance. Nothing has thrived on innovation like the internet and heavily regulated industries do not attract the capital needed to maintain this forward look. Licensing, approvals and compliance seriously retard the progress of progress.
In summary, limiting competition and innovation incentive are not seen as benefits to anyone in particular, which begs the last question; is this a solution in search of a problem?
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