More than anything else, I voted for Barack Obama because of his support for Net Neutrality. I wanted Healthcare reform too, but Net Neutrality was the big issue for me, and I’d have simply stayed home on election day, had he not openly supported that issue. The FCC, as a result of Obama’s new appointments, is now trying to implement Net Neutrality regulations. It’s no surprise that there are many on the political right now getting up on their soap box to bash Net Neutrality.
During his campaign for president, I criticized John McCain for his computer illiteracy. It’s really too bad that the anti-Net Neutrality advocates (they would call themselves “free market” advocates, but that would be ignoring markets that exist almost exclusively within the Internet, like Google and Facebook) are being represented by someone like John McCain. Even though I think the anti-reform advocates are wrong, I also think some have worthwhile points to make, and deserve to be heard. Unfortunately, it seems the people standing on the tallest soap box in opposition, are the people who clearly don’t have the slightest clue what they’re talking about.
There’s an argument to be made that the FCC shouldn’t be allowed to make up regulations on their own, and then implement them without congressional approval. Even members of the EFF are making that argument. I think it’s a valid point, and I would prefer to see binding legislation on this issue, rather than just FCC regulations that could easily be repealed at any time when the next administration comes in. However, this isn’t an argument against Net Neutrality; just against the FCC doing things unilaterally.
The few worthwhile arguments against Net Neutrality itself almost all revolve around the idea that the infrastructure was built by private companies, and thus those companies should be able to do what they like with that infrastructure. It’s a good ideological argument, but it ignores the issue of private monopoly, and the government subsidies taxpayers gave to those private companies to help them build that infrastructure. But even though that argument is flawed, it’s still immeasurably better than the “new fairness doctrine” malarkey coming out of some people. Net Neutrality is about forbidding the regulation of speech on the Internet (particularly by ISPs), which is the exact opposite of what the fairness doctrine was all about.
I believe the United States has been the most innovative country in terms of Internet start ups. Without Net Neutrality, companies like DIGG.com, mint.com, and people just looking to make a little money with their blog through advertising, simply wouldn’t have anything like the opportunities they have had in the past. Most of the websites we go to regularly wouldn’t have been viable businesses if we allowed the ISPs to run the Internet the way many of those same companies run cable television. We need to ensure America’s continued dominance in this space, and I don’t think we’ll be able to do that without Net Neutrality.