It is a difficult thing for me to say, but I am man enough to do it: I must congratulate our intellectual opponents on their amazing victory in the battle to impose Net neutrality regulations on the Internet. With the Wall Street Journal reporting last night that the FCC is on the verge of acting against Comcast based on the agency’s amorphous Net neutrality principles, it is now clear that the folks at the Free Press, Public Knowledge, and the many other advocates of comprehensive Internet regulation have succeeded in convincing a Republican-led FCC to get on the books what is, in essence, the nation’s first Net Neutrality law. It is quite an accomplishment when you think about it.
Even though, as Jerry Brito has noted, “the FCC has no authority to enforce a non-binding policy statement,” it is clear that is not about to stop the activist-minded FCC Chairman Kevin Martin or his allies on the Left from advancing the cause of arbitrary, bureaucratic governance of the Internet. And that means the “Hands Off the Net” era will gradually start giving way to the “Hands All Over the Net” era. As I told Bob Fernandez of the Philadelphia Inquirer when he called to interview me for a story about these developments:
“This is the foot in the door for big government to regulate the Internet,” [...] “This is the beginning of a serious regulatory regime. For the first time, the FCC is making law around net neutrality.”
And now that they have that foot in the door, I fully expect that it will be exploited for everything it’s worth to grow the scope of the FCC’s coercive bureaucratic authority over all things digital. The Left is salivating at the prospect of imposing their top-down vision of forced egalitarianism on the the Net, while the Right is figuring out how quickly they can exploit this to impose speech controls on anything they don’t want the public to see or hear.
It is a historic moment in the history of communications and media regulation, and freedom has lost—miserably. The tentacles of the regulatory Leviathan have grown infinitely longer and a little bit more of the Net’s freedom died today. And, again, what’s most amazing about this is that we have a Republican FCC to thank for that. So much for the GOP being for smaller government.