"Net Neutrality" Nets Out to Government Control

The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one's real and one's declared aims, one turns as it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish spurting out ink.
-George Orwell, "Politics and the English Language," 1946

There's nothing neutral about the Obama administration's push for net neutrality.

Do you suppose that, periodically, an ad appears in the Washington Post that reads this way?

Wanted. Congressional Legislation Naming Consultant (GS-9). Must be able to craft titles for legislation coming before the House and Senate. Must have a thorough understanding of the English language, and the ability to design titles counter-reflective of their intent. All applicants will be screened to assure no more than moderate recreational use of creative enhancement drugs. Preferential treatment will be given to those between 28-35 years of age who like comfort food.

Comfort food? Those include chocolate cake, macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes, chicken noodle soup, fried chicken, ice cream...all the foods that make us feel comfortable.

Consider the titles of recent legislation.

First, there was the Troubled Assets Relief Program. Relief is a comfort word. Who doesn't want relief when their assets are troubled? And it's troubled assets, not toxic assets. Toxic sounds dreadful.

Then came the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009Recovery and Reinvestment are like ham and eggs. Comfort words, both.

Now we face America's Affordable Health Choices. It's the full combination plate of comfort words.  All it needs is "and Effective" after "Affordable" to reach Nirvana. It would roll off the tongue nicely, too.  America's Affordable and Effective Health Choices.

There's another one on the near horizon. It's H.R. 3458, the Internet Freedom Preservation Act of 2009, proposed (yet again) by Reps. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) and Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.). Its title says it's about "Freedom" and "Preservation" of the internet. Mashed potatoes-and-gravy stuff. What could possibly be awry with this bill's intent?

The organization Free Press supports it. Its motto is "reform media. transform democracy.(Oh, oh. There's that "transform" word again.) Ben Scott, policy director of Free Press, states:

The future of the Internet as we know it depends on maintaining freedom and openness online. This crucial legislation will help to ensure that the public -- not big phone and cable companies -- controls the fate of the Internet.

The rules that govern the Internet must protect economic innovation, democratic participation and free speech online. If we don't make Net Neutrality the law once and for all, we could see the innovation and promise of the Internet derailed forever. (July 31, 2009)

That statement offers a veritable smorgasbord of comfort words: freedom; openness; public ... controls; economic innovation; democratic participation; free speech; promise. And the stark alternative if the bill isn't passed is an "Internet derailed forever." That's forever as in eternity. That's like being offered a gallon of freezer-burned Chocolate Pretzel Crunch ice cream for dessert after a meal of comfort food words. 

Ben's boss, Josh Silver, who runs Free Press, identified the evil opposition to net neutrality in a Huffington Post piece.

As the fight over Net Neutrality or "Internet Freedom" heats up, Web sites and spin by industry front groups and high-priced consultants are popping up daily, as cable and phone companies spend millions to mislead and misinform the American public.

There's the enemies list: industry front groups; high-priced consultants (What? No moderately priced ones?); and the big bad cable and phone companies that "mislead and misinform" folks. (Cue the boos.)

So, what does the Internet Freedom Preservation Act of 2009 propose? Here's the official summary:

7/31/2009 -- Introduced. Internet Freedom Preservation Act of 2009 - Amends the Communications Act of 1934 to set the policy of the United States regarding various aspects of the Internet, including access, consumer choice, competition, ability to use or offer content, applications, and services, discriminatory favoritism, and capacity. Makes it the duty of each Internet access service provider to:
(1) not block, interfere with, discriminate against, impair, or degrade the ability of any person to use an Internet access service;
(2) not impose certain charges on any Internet content, service, or application provider;
(3) not prevent or obstruct a user from attaching or using any lawful device in conjunction with such service, provided the device does not harm the provider's {sic} network;
(4) offer Internet access service to any requesting person;
(5) not provide or sell to any content, application, or service provider any offering that prioritizes traffic over that of other such providers; and
(6) not install or use network features, functions, or capabilities that impede or hinder compliance with these duties. Requires the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to promulgate related rules. Prohibits construing this Act to prohibit an Internet access provider from engaging in reasonable network management. Requires the FCC to:
(1) promulgate rules to ensure that an Internet access service provider does not require a consumer, as a condition on the purchase of any Internet access service, to purchase any other service or offering; and
(2) take certain actions, including regarding private transmission capacity services.

A lot of open doors in that language: "take certain actions"; "various aspects of the internet"; "certain charges." Plus, give internet service to anyone and everyone who wants it, as in "any requesting person."

Here's what one of the bill's co-sponsors identifies as its basic intent:

The Internet has thrived and revolutionized business and the economy precisely because it started as an open technology," said co-sponsor Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA) in a statement. "This bill will ensure that the non-discriminatory framework that allows the Internet to thrive and competition on the Web to flourish is preserved at a time when our economy needs it the most. (Source)

So, to follow Ms. Eshoo's argument, the Internet has "thrived and revolutionized business and the economy." Now she, Mr. Markey, and the Obama administration want to regulate it so it will thrive and flourish. (So I take my truck into the dealership and say, "Fix my truck, Doug." Doug says, "What's wrong with it?" I say, "Nothing, it runs great. It just needs fixing.")

Masked beneath the comfort language of the net neutrality bill are provisions that will effectively turn over management of the internet within the United States to the federal government via the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). It's a power for which the FCC hungers. Perhaps it envies China.

So there's nothing neutral about the Obama administration's push for net neutrality. "Neutrality" is a D.C. comfort word for control.