With housing, automakers, banking, student loans, and health care checked off the list, next on Team Obama's agenda is the National Broadband Plan, better known as Net Neutrality. Quite simply, it is a plan allowing the federal government to take over the nation's telecommunication platform, giving the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) centralized control of the internet. The fact that the FCC has no legal authority to regulate internet providers has not deterred administration efforts to regulate all electronic speech, news, and information.
Rep. Henry Waxman, chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, recently released a statement using Hurricane Katrina and 9/11 as prime justifications to push the National Broadband Plan. "The 9/11 attacks and Hurricane Katrina showed what happens when public safety officials lack a reliable means to communicate in the midst of a disaster," he stated. In other words, double down on stupid: In order to mitigate problems inherently tied to governmental bureaucracy, add another layer of federal oversight.
Although it was a welcome and shocking development that Democrats actually do see the significance of 9/11, that the White House is exploiting 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina to justify a federal takeover of the internet is anything but.
Naturally, like all phrases Orwellian -- be they "Social Justice," the "Fairness Doctrine," or "stimulus package" -- there is nothing "neutral" about the irreparable damage Net Neutrality will do to one of the greatest modern innovations. The government may have invented the internet, but the free market made it glorious. Although Waxman extols the potential financial boon the National Broadband Plan would result in, a New York Law School study estimated it would (at the very minimum) cost the economy 500,000 jobs and $62 billion in GDP. At the vanguard of the movement is a group called Free Press, a sinister group of Media Marxists hell-bent on transforming America into a press-police state. Seton Motley, president of Less Government, describes the organization as the "'media reform' wing of the 'social justice' movement," using Net Neutrality as the first step in "eradicating all private ownership of all avenues of media and communication -- radio, television and the internet -- so as to have the government be the sole provider of all information." Unfortunately, not the least bit shocking is the fact that Free Press has significant clout within the Obama administration. Mark Lloyd, the FCC's diversity czar, wrote that "freedom of speech or the press ... is all too often an exaggeration" and that "the purpose of free speech is warped to protect global corporations and block rules that would promote democratic governance."
Not to be outdone, Stuart Benjamin, a key advisor to FCC chairman Julius Genachowski, advocates "new regulations on broadcasters that will make broadcasting unprofitable," admitting that "some regulations will impose costs on broadcasters and not only have no benefits but also impose additional costs in their effects."
Good news is, for whatever reason, even the rabid leftist partisan Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) announced opposition to the most recent proposals by the Commission (probably thought there was too much compromise and not enough waste and abuse). Under the auspices of the plan, the astounding growth in government authority over the internet will 1) mandate price controls on internet providers, thereby gaining the right to dictate the network management operations of carriers; 2) ask TV markets to relinquish unused spectrums for an auction-type format; 3) allocate (read: steal) billions of taxpayer dollars to subsidize political and corporate allies; 4) kill technological innovation and business investment; and 5) create countless more jobs for individuals with specialties in inefficiency, apathy, and feelings of entitlement. The main arguments used by government officials, such as Larry Summers, center on the need to protect citizens from nonexistent web "discrimination" from evil corporations and -- just like abortion, health care, homeownership, $200 Nikes and Xboxes -- ensure that all Americans have the God-given, inalienable right to broadband access. The populist rhetoric used by liberals and Democrats should come as no surprise -- there isn't a time in history when authoritarian rulers haven't morally justified their actions with words like "public good" and identifying their self-interest with the royal "we." "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," says Ben Scott, policy director for Free Press. But when top hedge-fund managers donate almost exclusively to Democrats, Obama was the biggest recipient of BP cash in twenty years, and corporate goliaths in bed with Big Government such as Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, and Amazon are as giddy over Net Neutrality as Big PhRMA was over ObamaCare, how do liberals continue getting away with the lie that they are the ones against Big Business? Mark Hyman, contributor to the American Spectator, illustrates just how real, organized, and threatening the agenda behind Net Neutrality really is: The FCC is not the only government agency inappropriately "studying" journalism. The Federal Trade Commission, also singularly unqualified and without statutory authority, launched its own effort. The FTC's "Reinvention of Journalism" discusses several proposals to "reinvent" journalism, including some that would drastically alter the media landscape and severely impede a free press. For example, the FTC offers the possibility of copyrighting "facts or ideas" that would not only severely restrict the press and the public but could also lead to the government releasing "facts" only to politically allied news organizations. The FTC study contemplates various subsidy options, primarily for the newspaper industry. Other FTC proposals include expanding AmeriCorps into journalism and growing the size and scope of the Corporation of Public Broadcasting; in other words, vastly increasing government control of news.
And how's this for accessibility and transparency? "While the administration desires to regulate content, leading Congressional Democrats propose giving the president authority to shut down the Internet and other communications platforms altogether."
All apocalyptic hyperbole aside, every time the government touches something, three things inevitably occur: quality worsens, costs rise, and competition diminishes. A democracy cannot thrive when federal bureaucrats have the power to arbitrarily regulate the market -- especially the Fourth Estate -- deciding who succeeds and who fails. Whether it is subsidies to American farmers, tariffs, minimum-wage laws, or "Buy American" policies to protect union workers, economic debacles from big government intervention are well-documented -- but none compare to the dangers of state-controlled media.
Ever wonder what the combination of ObamaCare, affirmative action, and the Postal Service would look like? Lucky for you, you just might get the chance to see it, and all its digital glory with the National Broadband Plan.