So when either considers tinkering with the Internet -- our most pervasive information source and an increasingly indispensable part of our lives -- we are naturally cautious.
You should be, too.
The proposed "net neutrality" rules currently out for public comment will define what constitutes a "free market" on the Internet -- and possibly open the door to increased governmental regulation.
The practice finally would free the ISPs to create a tiered delivery system, with so-called "fast lane" service to those willing to pay premium prices to reach millions of households and businesses. It also would likely prompt ISPs to expand network capacities and invest in new technologies to better meet consumers' insatiable appetite for data.
However, the tiered-system concept, which the
The courts say the
That should make everyone cringe.
Do we want a vital segment of the economy that has flourished for two decades without significant government controls subjected to the bureaucratic whims of
We don't need a "
In addition to the self- vs. government-regulation debate, the
We believe it is the latter.
First, not all web content is equal, nor should it be treated as such. Even if you were to agree pornography and cat videos are as important as a telehealth company's remote-video diagnosis -- which they are not -- why be upset the medical company pays a little extra to ensure its life-saving service has real-time connectivity on an ISP fast lane?
Shouldn't a homeowner who pays for an alarm service have some assurances his service will not be disrupted on Friday nights because too many of his neighbors are streaming movies on
Those seeking stricter Internet oversight appear to be anticipating that the free-market system will fail without
Pay-for-speed opponents, for example, argue that it would be unfair to smaller web ventures, and that it gives large ISPs -- many of whom are sole providers in small- and midsized markets -- the ability to turn the Internet into a sort of protection racket, where those who fail to "pay the price" are made to suffer.
Some also fear that ISPs, such as
If you doubt antitrust authorities are up to the task of cracking down on problems that don't yet exist, what makes you think the
Keep in mind that "paid prioritization" is already a standard business practice. Do courier companies not charge a premium for overnight delivery? Do cellular companies not charge customers more for faster data speeds? Do airlines not charge first-class fliers pricier fares for more attentive service and better seats?
Why, then, is the practice suddenly considered predatory when it's applied to Internet data?
If you're really concerned about pricing, you should know that reclassifying ISPs as "common carriers" would expose broadband services to utility-style state and local taxes, effectively increasing your Internet costs.
In case you forgot how much of your telecommunications bill went to the government, you might want to look up the
And if you need one more reason to be wary of increased regulation, the proposed FCCs rules give the government a say over content. The new rules include the well-intentioned
provision prohibiting ISPs from blocking "legal content." But who defines what content is legal? Government regulators?
Everyone can agree on what constitutes "illegal" content when it comes to cut-and-dried matters such as child pornography. But what about
We've seen enough meddling with the First Amendment on public airwaves. We don't need bureaucrats intruding in the copper wires and fiber optic lines connecting our homes to the rest of the world.
Heavy regulation seldom benefits the marketplace, yet that's what many people are asking be done to the country's largest market.
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