By Harold Pease, Ph. D
It is difficult to say what mans’ greatest crowning technological achievement has been but it is likely the Internet, which emerged and operates without a central governing body—just like most everything in a free society. It has no centralized governance for either technology or policies but is guided by the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) for the allocation and assignment of various technical identifiers needed for its operation. UCLA and Stanford University are the educational institutions most associated with its development as is the name Jon Postel who helped guide it through three decades, but contributors are too numerous to name. My point: it moved and shaped itself as needs developed without big government resulting in a technological tsunami wave unparalleled in human history for the benefit of everyone on earth and it will continue to do so best without government interference.
Enter Barack Obama who has made no pretense of his desire to regulate the Internet. The take-over begins slowly, without review from Congress or any body except the President’s Federal Communications Commission, and is to remain largely silent. They, the FCC, will meet February 26, 2015, in a quiet room and vote whether or not the government should control the Internet. Government always chooses to enlarge itself so there exists little hope that the vote, making them more powerful, will be in the negative. Ironically warnings of the take-over, are thus far, posted only on the Internet.
It is easy to see why governments want control of this medium. Its existence promotes freedom from excessive government. Totalitarian states such as North Korea, China, Russia and even Iran have long ago restricted information adverse to them getting to their people.
Deceptively the take-over is called Net Neutrality, named by the government to infer that they will insure that no other entity, other than them, will have any undo influence over the Internet—a threat that is totally unfounded as demonstrated by its superb three-decade management of itself. There exists nothing neutral about Net Neutrality, which gives the FCC the power to decide what Internet service providers can charge and how they operate. Freedom is often lost in the name of freedom. This will not end well for freedom buffs or the free market.
Reportedly the FCC has planned on applying Title II (common carrier) of the Communications Act of 1934 to the Internet since April 23 of last year. The President encouraged the process November 10, 2014. The Republican House discussion draft bill of January 16, 2015, opposes the take-over which would reclassify internet service from one of information to one of telecommunications, such as radio or television, enabling the decades old rules over the other mediums to apply to the Internet at the discretion of the FCC alone. Thus bloggers and others who use the Internet to influence policy and campaigns could be limited or taxed.
So far Republican opposition is weak and Democratic opposition is non-existent. Conservatives view the take-over as a means of silencing them, much the same way that Obama has used the IRS to silence the Tea Party Movement. Liberals are mixed: strong advocates of individual liberty such as the “right to die” or use marijuana without government say so, but wanting to support their President. They need to be reminded that conservative Richard Nixon used government agencies to silence them as well.
If one wants to see where government regulation of the Internet can lead it can be found in a “free” country such as the Netherlands. For them providing Net Neutrality in practice recently meant a stiff fine for a company offering an app enabling folks to stream HBO channels without charging for data usage. In an Internet free world the app would be a welcomed invention. The company was also accused of influencing its customers’ online behavior by doing so, which is not allowed either.
As far as I can tell, at press time, the 332 page FCC plan, that will be voted on February 26, has not been made available to the public or to Congress. The take-over will happen without cameras or media comment and government agents will too soon fan out over the land looking for people to tax or criminalize and a serious blow to freedom will have occurred almost without notice. This is a time to phone your congressperson and two senators. You must demand that the FCC make their plans public, and that the Congress, who is constitutionally required to make ALL the laws as per Article I, Section I, perform their responsibilities, rather than sit by and let unelected bureaucrats do so.
Dr. Harold Pease is a syndicated columnist and an expert on the United States Constitution.