Opposing Net Neutrality Regulations Should be Bi-Partisan
The new net neutrality rules are set to go into effect on November 20, just a few days before Thanksgiving. Instead of giving thanks for these new regulations, taxpayers, consumers, and all web surfers will be given the bird by the federal government. Net neutrality is the wrong solution to a non-existent problem. “Net neutrality,” which is loosely defined as a system that allows information on the Internet to move freely without regard to content is in reality, a not so subtle attempt to regulate the Internet.
The battle over net neutrality has typically been with proponents of net neutrality being on the left side of the political spectrum and those opposing being on the right side of the political spectrum. The reality is that opposing these regulations should be bi-partisan. Besides the potential cost to taxpayers and the lack of need to regulate a dynamic industry, the most compelling argument against net neutrality is what happened in Egypt ten months ago when the government denied Internet access to its citizens in the wake of their revolution. According to a January 28, 2011 article in the New York Times, “Autocratic governments often limit phone and Internet access in tense times. But the Internet has never faced anything like what happened in Egypt on Friday, when the government of a country with 80 million people and a modernizing economy cut off nearly all access to the network and shut down cellphone service.” The article went on to note that, “In the Internet era, governments have found many ways to control the flow of information — or at least to try to do so — by interfering with digital communications or limiting them.”
Many claim that this could never happen in the United States but there have been legislative attempts at giving the President power, an Internet kill switch, to shut down portions of the Internet in the case of a cyber attack. Responding to criticism that a bill offered by Sens. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), and Tom Carper (D-Del.) would include an Internet kill switch, Forbes noted that “Senator Lieberman responded by saying, ‘No way, and total misinformation. But then he went on to clarify, saying ‘We need the capacity for the president to say, Internet service provider, we’ve got to disconnect the American Internet from all traffic coming in from another foreign country… Right now, China, the government, can disconnect parts of its Internet in a case of war. We need to have that here, too.’” It may not be a wise move to cite China as an example considering their history of disregard of human rights and intellectual property.
The Internet has thrived because government has, up until now, kept a light regulatory touch on the Internet. Quick reacting business and free market forces will keep the Internet thriving, not slow unresponsive government bureaucracies. China and Egypt should be lessons as to the danger of any government intervention with the Internet.