Restore Internet Freedom – Heck Yes!

by Mike Wendy on April 28, 2017

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai before his address announcing the FCC’s new Restore Internet Freedom NPRM.

MediaFreedom hails Chairman Ajit Pai and Commissioner Mike O’Rielly’s proposal to (in their words) “end the utility-style regulatory approach that gives government control of the Internet and to restore the market-based policies necessary to preserve the future of Internet Freedom, and to reverse the decline in infrastructure investment, innovation, and options for consumers put into motion by the FCC in 2015.”

Wow, that’s a mouthful. But it’s true. “Restoring Internet Freedom,” as the proposal is officially called, needs to occur. Like, yesterday.

FCC Commissioner Mike O’Rielly at the Restore Internet Freedom announcement.

Since 2010, MediaFreedom has argued that prophylactic rules like the prior Commission’s Net Neutrality / Open Internet / Title II regulations are not needed. When they finally passed in 2015, we warned that Title II and the bright-line Net Neutrality proscriptions within the Order would harm the Internet ecosystem, consumers, entrepreneurs, and, in particular, free speech. Sadly, this has borne out. Thankfully, however, the majority of the new FCC appears ready to arrest the deleterious nature of the previous Commission’s regime, and move back to the light-touch regulation which built the Internet.

We’re eager to help make that happen.

Yesterday, the proposed rule was released to the public. In mid-May it will be voted on by the full Commission, thus starting the formal process of collecting comments to develop the rulemaking’s record. Briefly, MediaFreedom will urge the FCC to repeal the reclassification of ISPs into Title II carriers, and to eliminate, or significantly relax, its present Net Neutrality framework. We believe that paid priority, and other forms of reasonable differentiation, must be allowed to go forward.

The proposal is an exceedingly important first step toward rectifying the regulatory overreach of the Obama-Wheeler (Sohn) Commission. It is also a huge advance in addressing free speech and the role communications companies must play in fostering that.

Former Free Press Chairman Tim Wu (center) preaching to the zealots at the May 2014 FCC “fauxtest” for Net Neutrality.

MediaFreedom battles government policy which seeks to censor speech. We are particularly concerned with the effects of overt and “structural” efforts to limit conservative / market-oriented / libertarian voices. Net Neutrality, springing from the theories of former Free Press activist Tim Wu, is one such seemingly benign “media reform” effort. Title II regulation only amplifies that. As Chairman Pai noted on Wednesday (starting at page 5 in his remarks):

…[S]ome will argue that government control [via Title II] is the key to the ability to speak your mind on the Internet. Most Americans should recognize this absurdity for what it is. For government regulation is no friend to free speech, but its enemy. After all, the First Amendment doesn’t give the government power to regulate. It denies the government that power. And anyone who thinks otherwise should remember the wise words of President Gerald Ford: “A government big enough to give you everything you want is a government big enough to take from you everything you have.”

The Chairman went on to admonish the “media reform” group Free Press – a band of activists whom we have followed for the better part of a decade, and who were instrumental in foisting Net Neutrality / Title II, and its previous iterations, onto the communications policy landscape.  He did so for good reason. Free Press (and Soros, Ford, etc. funded groups like them) wants to stomp out speech that doesn’t reflect its “progressive” values. It wants the “collective voice” to rule (through their elite guidance), not the individual’s. Government control of ISP networks via Net Neutrality / Title II is the hook which brings the group and their like yet another step closer to their “media reform” utopia.

Make no mistake about it – this “media reform” agenda is the exact opposite of a free and open Internet.

Thankfully, it seems apparent that the NPRM will lead to the repudiation of those specious ideas (and, one hopes, the groups trafficking in them), enabling communications companies and their partners to speak and act as they see fit, not as Tim Wu and Uncle Sam command them to. That alone is reason enough to support the NPRM.

Of course, the “need” for “strong,” FCC-provided Net Neutrality / Title II rules never existed in the first place. The Internet exploded precisely because of their absence.  As Chairman Pai stated on Wednesday: “The truth of the matter is that we decided [under Chairman Tom Wheeler] to abandon successful policies solely because of hypothetical harms and hysterical prophecies of doom.”

It’s time to come back to reality and Restore Internet Freedom!

Let’s do this!

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