Copps’ Lament for Government’s Sticky Fingers

by Mike Wendy on November 15, 2010

FCC Commissioner Michael Copps is at it again.  Today he’s warning once anew that evil companies, motivated by self-interest, are fixin’ to steal the Open Internet from Americans.   As part invitation to a Free Press townhall, part paranoid rant, he intones:

“Right now, there are a few companies that have the ability to control what we see and do online, with or without our knowledge. The players that control access to the wonders of the Internet tell us not to worry because surely they can agree among themselves to behave appropriately.

“History teaches us, however, that when technological capability to exercise control combines with a financial incentive to do so, some will try to turn this power to their own advantage.”

He assures us that “This is not about regulating the Internet,” of course. Rather, it’s about placing agencies like the FCC in control of consumers’ online experience.  And that’s the real point for him and thick as thieves partner in crime, the Free Press.   It’s about control – theirs.

Thankfully it is not needed (nor wanted, if the midterms mean anything).

Net Neutrality is now.  It will likely continue, “regulated” in “open source” manner largely outside of the FCC’s control – through the advance of technology, consumer tools, industry best practices, marketplace guidance and backstop consumer protections (at a competing agency called the FTC).

I’m banking on companies working to their own advantage.  It was that same dynamic that took the Internet – which once sat in the backrooms of academia and DoD offices – and made it the great success that we have today.  Thank goodness for that.

Others are not similarly inclined.  One Free Press employee tweeted this morning on the Copps piece, noting: “Tech capacity to control info + financial incentive to do so = real threat to free speech.”

He has it exactly wrong.  Let me correct the equation, framing it in terms of our traditional fear of government: Government’s capacity to confiscate, fine, imprison + plastic government “public interest” standards = THE real threat to free speech and the Internet.”

Companies go out of business when they stink.  Government – as we have seen these past two years – only gets bigger when it fails.  Americans should trust their instincts and reject the Copps cant.  The Internet works.  It does so because the FCC hasn’t gotten its sticky fingers on the medium to “protect” consumers.

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