From the Hart: Net neutrality another government overreach

tsj column writers - from the hartBy Ron Hart

 

“Government’s view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.”

—Ronald Reagan

The World Wide Web has been an American success story, creating a tremendous amount of commerce, convenience and egalitarian education, and standing as a monument to free speech. The Obama administration stood by and watched this success for as long as it could, and now has found a way to control it.

Most Americans do not know what “net neutrality” is. Many think it is what Bruce Jenner has decided to go through. But it is not.

Net Neutrality is a complex subject, best explained as follows: The Internet was going along swimmingly. It was an example of free enterprise and free speech working well together for the benefit of the consumer. Then Washington realized it could, via the Federal Communication Commission (loaded with Obama appointees), regulate it. It was a takeover of a private sector success just like the usurpation of healthcare.

Even Bill Clinton came out against a similar White House-backed effort to turn over U.S. control of the Internet to the “International Coalition,” marking one of the few times Bill Clinton ever rejected an international body, or any body.

The premise of Net Neutrality was that providers that had spent billions laying cable fiber might charge some customers more than others for higher speed Internet service, the same way ObamaCare charges more for a Gold healthcare plan than a Bronze one. It is how the market prices everything. There is a different price for a Chevy Tahoe than a Chevy Aveo.

The way politicians get a cut of a business is to regulate it. The cable companies are the highest donors to lobbyists who give the money to elected officials. Comcast is right behind Northrup Grumman (a defense contractor also inextricably in bed with Washington) in spending the most on lobbying: $18 million.

All other cable companies spend lots of money on politicians who “regulate” them. Why does 96% of the country have two or fewer cable companies from which to choose?  Why is your cable bill so high and service so bad? Answer: regulation – the opposite of free market competition.

Cable companies intentionally avoid each other’s territory, like the Mafia or drug dealers. Any turf wars would benefit consumers in the form of better service and prices, but they want no part of that.

“Net neutrality” was never really debated because it was a planned takeover. If Washington bureaucrats in the FCC, FTC or whatever (I get my incompetent federal agencies confused) wanted to spend more time thinking about this, the outcome would be no different; it would still be them doing the thinking. They just didn’t want us thinking about it.

So it was slipped by us. Votes fell along party lines. Since more Americans can name three Kardashian sisters than three Supreme Court Justices, America, predictably, went to sleep on this one. When told what to think, even Joe Biden said he had looked at the regulation and was for it — this from a guy who looks like he still has dial-up Internet.

I kid Joe Biden. He is tech-savvy; you can follow him on Twitter and the Federal Sex Offender Groper’s Registry.

The government used an interpretation of The Communications Act of 1934 to take over this new and vibrant, twenty-first century business. Now the FCC has a “general conduct” or “catch-all” provision in the regulation which allows the FCC to assert its authority over anything on the Internet.  In the bureaucratic equivalent of an executive action, the FCC voted to have the FCC control everything.

Obama has been accused of steamrolling the FCC to make this decision. Like Obamacare, we got to “see what was in the bill, once they passed the bill.” You knew it was going to be another Obama administration lie when the President went out and promoted net neutrality. In selling it, Obama said  that if you like your porn site, you can keep your porn site. Period.

In twisting the famous adage, Washington thinks, “If it is not broken, then we should fix it,”  and has gotten its tentacles around another thriving U.S. enterprise. They will not make it better.

Ron Hart, a libertarian syndicated op-ed humorist, award-winning author and TV/radio commentator can be reached at Ron@RonaldHart.com or visit www.RonaldHart.com

 

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