Obamanet vs. Net Neutrality

On December 14, the Federal Communications Commission voted to repeal another Obama legacy: the Orwellian-named “Open Internet Order” FCC-15-24, or Obamanet. Prepared by far-left groups and Eric Schmidt, the chairman of Google and a member of Obama’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, it was adopted by Obama’s FCC in February 2015. The repeal goes in effect in sixty days after official publication unless it's held up in courts. Howls from the left sound as if a horde of demons is being doused with holy water while the broad public, including many conservatives, is confused. Most people mistakenly believe that Obamanet protected some “net neutrality” (in quotes because the term appeared only in 2003 and the meaning has been changing). On the contrary, Obamanet canceled net neutrality. Conservatives think that the order was redistributing wealth from those who created the internet infrastructure to Obama and Al Gore’s cronies in Silicon Valley. This is correct, but just scratching the surface.

Obamanet has probably been the worst violation of freedom of speech and religion that this country has ever known. The confusion is excusable. The Obamanet order was rewritten secretly after a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking presented an entirely different proposal. Like ObamaCare, Obamanet was extremely lengthy and sprawled on 300+ pages (the original 2005 FCC policy statement, establishing net neutrality as FCC policy, was only three pages long). And there was a repetition of the “We [need] to pass the bill in order to find out what [is] in it” (Nancy Pelosi about ObamaCare) moment. But unlike ObamaCare, Obamanet was presented as a small regulation that was intended to preserve what already existed. Furthermore, Obamanet exploited the technical nature of the subject not understood by commentators, most of the public, and even legal experts. And it received wall-to-wall support from the “tech” monopolies in Silicon Valley that benefited from it.

Obamanet banned freedoms in the name of “protections.” Its language is directed at ISPs, but the target is all citizens, especially children. One of the banned things is family-friendly internet access.

“A person engaged in the provision of broadband Internet access service, insofar as such person is so engaged, shall not block lawful content, applications, services, or nonharmful devices, subject to reasonable network management.” (Obamanet, para 112)

Parental control software (like Net Nanny, CyberSitter, Cyber Alert, etc.) that users install on their computers at home has very limited effectiveness today. Children can bypass these controls by bringing outside tablets in (a new tablet can be purchased for $40, a used one might be free) and connecting to their home wi-fi. Frequently, children also have better computer skills than their parents and can disable filtering at home. The only reliable option is network side filtering, which Obama’s FCC has banned (possibly even before 2015). Thus, Obamanet has exposed children to pornography, child predators, and drug dealers. Not surprisingly, PornHub, Netflix, Google, YouPorn, and the new Democratic Party became excited and came forward in force to protect Obamanet. This is a partial list of the most aggressive Obamanet defenders.

I could not find a family-friendly broadband ISP in the US. For comparison, large U.K. internet providers provide family-friendly access as a default option, and most families keep it. (The U.K. ISPs do that on demand from the government. I don't suggest implementing that in the U.S. Also, different families have different filtering needs in accordance with their religious views. But the government has absolutely no authority to forbid it).

Obamanet has also dispensed with the freedom of speech, and turned Google, Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft and few other Obama/Al Gore cronies into internet gatekeepers. Our internet usage is comparable to visiting a physical bookstore or library. If we look at booksellers prior to the rise of Amazon, we'd notice many kinds of stores carrying different books that cater to their target audience. For example, a bookstore in Berkeley has a different selection from a bookstore in a pious Tennessee town. Big chains carry a broad selection of books to cater to broader clientele. There are also religious bookstores, and, conversely, there are adult bookstores. These are expressions of the freedom of speech. An equivalent of the Obamanet in the physical world would be a rule that regulates any business that moves books as common carriers. The Obamanet order says:

“any person engaged in the provision of broadband Internet access service” (para 21), or in the provision of “any service that the Commission finds to be providing a functional equivalent of [broadband Internet access]… or that is used to evade the protections set forth in this Part” (para 25).

Bookstores fall under similar definition of the common carrier. Under Obamanet equivalent, every bookstore must carry all books equally (within their physical capacity). Church bookstores must carry porn and books of all other religions, and must display them equally without discrimination. Old ladies in Tennessee must browse through bookcases of Marxist writings and porn. If they bring to the bookstore their grandchildren, their only way to protect them from pornography is to cover their eyes. It is hard to imagine such rules in the real world, even with Bill Ayers’ friend as president. But similar internet regulations glided in easily, partly because of the technical nature of the subject.

Notice the asymmetry: an adult store can function even if it’s ordered to carry religious literature, but a religious store cannot carry porn, and will likely close. A large chain can continue operating with porn and commie/nazi filth alongside normal books, but it would lose most of its conservative, intellectual, and freedom-loving customers. It would have to adapt to what clientele is left. The management might even mistake the tastes of the remaining customers for the choice of the public, and act accordingly. This is what happened to the internet (and not only the internet) when Obamanet took it over. But I don’t intend to blame Obamanet for everything that has been done to this country since February 2015 or even November 2008. It's just one factor among many.

Contrary and opposite to the media's claims, the Obamanet order explicitly canceled net neutrality, which had been an FCC regulatory policy since 2005. Obamanet allowed cable companies to set a usage cap and not to count its own content toward this cap. Internet usage grows very fast, and a usage cap which seems reasonable today would become low tomorrow, all but totally restricting the subscriber to the provider’s own or affiliated content. The Obama’s FCC intended to consider such plans, "based on the facts of each individual case," which meant to be based on relations between the cable company and the Obama administration. From the Obamanet order:

“Sponsored data plans (sometimes called zero-rating) enable broadband providers to exclude edge provider content from end users’ usage allowances… allowing service providers to pick and choose among content and application providers to feature on different service plans… we will look at and assess such practices under the no-unreasonable interference/disadvantage standard, based on the facts of each individual case, and take action as necessary.” (para 151-152)

The posturing of the Obamanet supporters as defenders of a little guy against big and bad cable companies is completely fake. Obamanet does not harm them. Even paid prioritization of internet traffic (as described in the “fast lane/slow lane” commercials) is banned only conditionally. The order contains a promise to waive the ban on a whim:

“The Commission may waive the ban on paid prioritization only if the petitioner demonstrates that the practice would provide some significant public interest benefit and would not harm the open nature of the Internet.” (para 130)

Although the Obamanet order came suddenly, it was just a last step in the series of Obama’s regulations intended to silence opposition on the Internet.

Leo Goldstein has 20+ years of experience in positions ranging from software engineer to chief technology officer in internet technology companies. He used to devote most attention to opposing climate alarmism, until discovering that similarly irrational agendas and their agents have spread all around us and are connected to former bastions of rationality -- Silicon Valley and prestigious academic institutions. 

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