The Net Neutrality Power Grab

Rich Trzupek is a veteran environmental consultant and senior advisor to the Heartland Institute. He is the author of the new book Regulators Gone Wild: How the EPA is Ruining American Industry (Encounter Books).


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The Federal Communications Commission’s decision to start regulating the Internet is the culmination of a plan that has followed a classic leftist pattern: create a “problem,” declare that only big government can solve it, possibly solve it, and then use that power to further your agenda. FCC Commissioners voted three to two – strictly along party lines – to make the power grab. Regulation of the Internet is necessary, proponents of so-called “net neutrality” argue, in order to prevent big Internet service providers like Verizon and Comcast from restricting or inhibiting access to parts of the World Wide Web. Net neutrality is thus a classic example of a solution in desperate need of a problem, for you have to search far and wide to find someone in America who hasn’t been able to go where he or she wanted to go on the Internet, and – assuming they paid for the bandwidth – at lightning speed.

You don’t have to know much more about net neutrality to deduce that it’s a bad idea than to consider the people and organizations that have been pushing the concept. MoveOn.org, George Soros’ Open Society Institute and the Pew Charitable Trust are among the leftist powerhouses that have provided the money necessary to move Internet regulation forward. The Wall Street Journal’s John Fund reports that the idea was originally proposed by Robert McChesney, a University of Illinois communications professor and an admitted socialist. “At the moment, the battle over network neutrality is not to completely eliminate the telephone and cable companies,” McChesney told the website SocialistProject in 2009. “But the ultimate goal is to get rid of the media capitalists in the phone and cable companies and to divest them from control.”

And so we’re left to consider once again the great question of the age: is big government the answer to every problem, whether real or perceived? Every time something goes wrong, or any time someone identifies a potential risk, the default leftist response is more government, more regulations and more bureaucrats. But, we all pay a price for such expansion of the nanny state. Any segment of the economy that struggles under the thumb of an intransigent, unimaginative and all-powerful regulatory agency inevitably suffers. We thus trade the potential of free-market prosperity for the certainty of bureaucratic intolerance. Distilled down to its essentials, the leftist argument ultimately concludes that the positives of government mandated equality outweigh whatever risks of the free market we might have to deal with, because the leftist utopian equality imposed by the state is an equality of mediocrity.

The stated goal of net neutrality sounds so very wonderful: to ensure that each and every American has equal access to the Internet and to ensure that ISPs cannot arbitrarily limit that access. The Internet is a public resource, the argument continues, and should be regulated like any other public communications resource, such as the television and radio stations. If the consequences of the FCC’s power grab were truly benign, few people would care. But, the fact is that we know from bitter experience that once a regulatory agency decides to sink its claws into a particular sector of the economy, it will dig deeper and deeper until it exerts what amounts to a death grip.

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  • Jim

    The left as usual engages in the closing of the mind

  • Jim

    The left as usual engages in the closing of the mind.

  • aspacia

    The only place where internet access is restricted is the workplace. I have always been able to access any sites of interest.

    The author is correct; this is a government power and tax grab.

  • Gamaliel Isaac

    One thing I've noticed about the Obama administration is that they preempt concerns about their policies by claiming that those policies will achieve the opposite of what the problem they will create. For example the disastrous Start treaty that they pass will jeopardize National security so Obama argues that it is necessary for National Security. The obvious concern about regulation of the internet is they will try and suppress criticism of their administration (and of Muslims and so on) on the internet so they claim that are protecting our freedom to have unrestricted access to web sites. This is a clever form of deception worthy of George Orwell.

  • Denny Rossbach

    The new rules allow tiered pricing (read more $ for more bandwidth). SInce video will eventually cost more under FCC rules — and the most pervasive use of video is currently for advertising, we will soon be paying for adds and popups much as we pay for adds in linear media. When advertisers are eventually legally blocked (it is hard to believe the FCC can allow random advertisers to increase individual billing rates without consent) The entire freedom of the Net will be at risk, as will a large number of ad-based businesses. If this is allowed to stand, we will ultimately loose the freedom of the net.

  • davarino

    Its funny how the supposed proponents of free speech are the ones trying to squelch it. Just cause they cant get their ideas accepted by the public they deem this as unfair and see that the gov needs to step in and remedy the problem. The problem is their ideas stink and the majority of people do not flock to hear such nonsense.

  • USMCSniper
  • welldoneson

    Regulating the internet is the conceit of totalitarian regimes such as we see in China and Venezeula. The reasons the Obama admin. is giving are utterly stupid. They don't care, as long as they can give some so-much-hot-air reasons they know they can slam it through.

    That the U. S. gov't is trying to do it only provides evidence that Obama is
    1) a Marxist-inspired bureaucrat face-man
    2) the regulations his admin. is proposing are written behind the scenes
    by extremists who remain as anonymous as is Obama himself.

    Never have we known LESS about a President than this galloot.
    I hate the Democrats for this. They have gone WAY too far.

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