Net Brutality

The Internet works.

Actually, the Internet works better than most anything around.  While I was earning my doctorate in the mid-1990’s, a special session for faculty and graduate students was held.  We were to see something called “hyper-links” on the “World Wide Web.”  Whoa, Dude.  I had never heard of those, so I re-watched all my Lost in Space videos to make sure I wasn’t getting a snack while they were explained.  Nope, they were new.

Fast forward to a mere fifteen or so years later and I not only know what they are, I can communicate to you every weekday, like this, for free using them.  I can put videos up, I can link to other blogs anywhere in the world, and I can get information on most any topic in the blink of an eye.  I no sooner think of a new feature than someone develops it.  I can buy a phone for $200 or less that does more than my first ($3000) computer did just a few years ago.

Want to know why?  It is primarily because government was too slow and stupid to screw it up.  Given enough time, though, even a blind squirrel gets a nut.  Enter the FCC.

Despite a court ruling limiting its authority over the Internet, the FCC is hellbent on a concept called “net neutrality.”  Though there are plenty of reasons to be wary, the first is the bizarre choice of phraseology used to describe the principle.  One cannot help but think of Newspeak from George Orwell’s 1984 or Communism’s “property is theft” slogan.  The word “neutrality” is designed to make us think it is a good thing. Who wants to be biased, after all?

Of course, being biased in the strange perspective of the FCC means that carriers can control how content is managed on their networks.  So discriminating between the folks who send minimal amounts of traffic through the Internet and those who clog up the works with truckloads of 0’s and 1’s is wrong.  It’s not…neutral… and it must be stopped.

While I despise someone who uses coercion to add to his/her wealth, I have not yet come up with a word that quite captures my disgust with entities like the FCC.  Their determination to be Internet Overlords will not result in more profits, more wealth, more anything.  Anything, that is, except power.

We are witnessing a disturbing trend for agencies of government to thumb their noses at any attempt to restrain them.  FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski has essentially ignored any suggestion that his agency does not and should not have the authority to regulate the Internet. Why?  Power, raw, unchecked political power–the most revolting aspiration of human beings. cloaked in the smooth, comforting language of aspiring totalitarians.

And thus, he ushers in the first Grim Reaper of Innovation.  From a vibrant, innovative, ever-cheaper tool that transforms our lives for the better, we now slouch toward the Dead Hand of Regulation.  In the words of Groucho Marx, “Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies.” Worse, he drives yet one more nail into the coffin of freedom.  What will it take to (figuratively) club these vermin into submission?  Send Genachowski a message–hands off the Internet.

About Terry Noel

I am an Associate Professor of Management and Quantitative Methods at Illinois State University. My specialty is entrepreneurship.
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