I try to stay away from politics in this blog, but it occurs to me that if I don’t say something now I may not get the chance to say it later, and I want to have this on record. Later, when everyone is standing around in shock saying, “No one could have predicted this outcome!” I want people to remember that, yes, someone did.
I honestly cannot understand how any private individual who uses the internet on a regular basis could possibly support giving the FCC regulatory powers over it. The consequences of doing so are so obviously disadvantageous for consumers and entrepreneurs.
First, the price is going to go up. That’s a given. Any new regulation involves increased cost of compliance–ISPs will have to spend more overhead complying with the regulations and then documenting everything so that they can prove that they have complied with new regulations. This cost will be passed on to consumers.
Next, quality will go down. Also a given. Any heavily regulated industry has to ensure that the government is satisfied first. When forced to make a choice between giving the government what it wants and giving consumers what they want, the consumers are going to lose out. It’s just like smoking in bars–it doesn’t matter if the majority of the patrons would rather that a particular establishment would permit smoking, government regulations prevent the owners of the bar from offering that option to their customers.
Then we’ll start losing options. Big companies are better able to absorb the parasitic cost of regulation. The smaller companies will get squeezed out. The big companies also have the power to lobby for special exemptions and sweetheart deals with the regulators. People keep trying to frame this as a choice between big business or big government, but that’s just not true. It’s a choice between big government and a few big businesses in collusion or small government and many small businesses.
Lastly, we’ll get a politically cleansed internet. That, in my opinion, is the real goal of “Net Neutrality”. Sites that are critical of the government are going to find that their ISPs are having problems with the FCC–problems that will stop once the objectionable content is removed. Does that seem far-fetched? This administration has already proved its willingness to use other federal agencies for political purposes. What’s more, the internet represents the only channel of information that is open to anyone. For now.
It is, perhaps, inevitable that the internet become another propaganda tool of the federal government. What I find infuriating is that so many creative artists–people who rely on the internet to reach customers and distributors, people who simply could not have gotten their work to market any other way–seem to support the government choking off their livelihood.