FCC’s Next Net Neutrality Rule Must Not Be Buzzkill to Innovation, Growth

by Mike Wendy on May 15, 2014

The following statement may be attributed to Mike Wendy, Director of MediaFreedom.org:

Alexandria, VA, May 15, 2014 – Today, Tom Wheeler and his majority Commissioners at the FCC will begin again the agency’s process of concocting another regulatory roofie to protect the Internet from itself.  If the odd events of the past couple of weeks and the Grateful Dead drum jam protests presently outside the FCC are any indication, we’re in for a long strange acid trip of a new Net Neutrality rule by year’s end.

Though the Chairman has clammed up since trying to explain away his faith in “reasonable discrimination,” on Tuesday, FCC official, Gigi Sohn, gave fresh indications of where the new rule might be headed anyway, noting on Twitter:

“[The] Chairman knows [the] free market won’t protect [the] open Internet.  That’s why he’s proposing new [Net Neutrality] rules – none exist today.”

Translation? The free market Internet is kaput.  Permissionless innovation over.  And, the whole interconnected Internet ecosystem is on notice that vast new regulation is never more than a drum jam session away from happening.

A buzzkill to growth and innovation?  I’ll say.

Tom Wheeler’s FCC could certainly refrain from imposing a new Net Neutrality rule, waiting instead to see if consumers are in fact being harmed, and then acting with current authority to address any specific problems.  Or, it could follow a “commercially reasonable,” case-by-case approach that would allow, among other things, policed negotiations between ISPs and edge providers for prioritized service – arrangements available in every other segment of our economy.

Instead, the drum beat of news leaks and activist petitions inform us that the worst remedy in the FCC’s regulatory goodie bag – i.e., FDR-era phone regulation, otherwise known as Title ll – might be just what the pusher ordered to cure the Internet of its free market Jones.

For the lion’s share of the 20th Century, American consumers were “protected” from the free market and competition by “well-meaning” policymakers who hooked consumers on the supposed beneficence of state-controlled markets.

Only when that control ended did Americans get an Internet worth “saving.”

Policymaking by Grateful Dead jam session sure sounds like fun, but when the music’s over, the hangover’s a hard one to shake.  It took a generation to get rid of the last one.  Can tomorrow’s Internet consumers wait that long to rid themselves of the next?  MediaFreedom hopes the Commission avoids that jam.

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