On Tuesday this week, a panel of 5 regulators in the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) voted to impose Net Neutrality rules on internet service providers. As you may know, the FCC is a U.S. agency that regulates communications of many types, such as telephone, cellular phone, radio, cable tv, wireless internet and others. The members of the commission are political appointees, and are not elected by a vote of any kind. The commission also enjoys a great deal of independence from Congressional authority.
The main idea around Net Neutrality is that internet service providers should provide open and unrestricted access to all of their customers. In the past, providers such as Comcast have slowed down access to certain types of information such as Bittorrent streams. Net Neutrality is also proposed to stop the service providers from charging extra money based on band-width use. Others are saying that Net Neutrality isn’t enough, and all internet access should be free to the public.
While the ideas behind Net Neutrality sound beneficial to the average consumer, many people have raised concerns that any government involvement is going to clamp down on the inherent freedom of the internet. As we’ve seen already, governments are the worst abusers of internet freedom. Countries such as Iran, North Korea and China are famous for imposing severe restrictions on data entering their countries. The U.S. government has already shown a heavy hand when they shut down over 80 websites for copyright infringement, and tried to shut down the WikiLeaks web site.
Internet freedom and privacy organizations are typically afraid to support any regulation of the internet, even inside the U.S. borders. For example, the Electronic Freedom Foundation (EFF) has serious questions:
What is the basis for the FCC’s authority, and is there a reasonable limiting principle to it? Is the basis on which the FCC is claiming it can regulate, one that has real limits for future decisions … ?
Personally, I have to oppose the idea of Net Neutrality. Allowing the FCC or any government body to regulate access to the internet is risky. Once they get in, it’s nearly impossible to keep them out. Technology changes, companies come and go, but government commissions and regulations seem to last forever.
The internet is not broken, and it doesn’t need fixed.
We’ve seen the internet service providers respond to criticism. They will typically do what their customers want them to do. We vote with our money. If we don’t like a provider, in most cases, we can switch to another. I fear the real possibilities of biased political involvement and corruption.
Unfortunately, we may not have any further choice on this issue. The FCC, which isn’t responsible to any American voter, may succeed in it’s bid to regulate the internet inside the United States.
Here is a video from Reason.TV that explains my feelings on this issue a little better than my words.
If you don’t agree with my position on Net Neutrality â€¦ feel free to comment below.