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Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Do You Really "Save the Internet" By Regulating It?
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A new pro-Net neutrality coalition has formed called the "Save the Internet Coalition."

Hey, who can be against that? Well, I can.

You see, this coalition's idea of "saving the Internet" is premised on regulators doing the saving. The coalition proclaims that "Congress must include meaningful and enforceable network neutrality requirements" in whatever communications reform legislation it passes this session "to ensure that the Internet remains open to innovation and progress."

Oh, I get it... Let's call in our benevolent-minded regulators to oversee the daily workings of something as complicated as Internet network management. Brilliant !!

Haven't we learned anything from seven decades of communications regulation? Empowering bureaucrats to micro-manage the operation of broadband networks and Internet activities isn't going to lead to communications nirvana; it's going to lead to just another regulatory hell. Supporters of Net neutrality mandates are essentially saying we need more government regulation in order to be free. It's the beginning of another sad chapter in the "burn the village in order to save it" story of modern communications regulation.

And in what I regard as an absolutely despicable contortion of the true meaning of the First Amendment, the Coalition's "statement of principles" on its website states that: "Network neutrality is the Internet's First Amendment. Without it, the Internet is at risk of losing the openness and accessibility that has revolutionized democratic participation, economic innovation and free speech."

Please! How dare you employ the First Amendment in defense of your Big Government plan for Internet control. In case the members of the "Strangle the Internet"... er, uh... "Save the Internet Coalition" have forgotten, the First Amendment could not be any more clear about the role it envisions for government when it says: "CONGRESS SHALL MAKE NO LAW..."!

We used to talk about "Hands Off the Internet." But groups like this are leading us down the path to "Hands ALL OVER the Internet." To use the First Amendment in service of this regulatory agenda is outrageous.

If the folks in this coalition want to take a stand in favor of the REAL First Amendment, perhaps they can come join me in my daily fight against the FCC on the speech control front. Those same benevolent bureaucrats that the "Save the Internet" coalition wants to empower to regulate Net have been very busy lately regulating speech in the broadcast sector.

You might say there's no connection between these two issues. Nonsense. We gave the regulators an inch on the broadcast front and they took a mile. Once we empowered them to regulate broadcast infrastructure, the regulation of the speech delivered via broadcast platforms followed. It's an example of what Vanderbilt law professor Christopher Yoo has labeled "architectural censorship." Simply stated, if government can regulate the soapbox, it can regulate the speech delivered from that soapbox as well. Do you really think things will be different once we invite the bureaucrats in to regulate the Internet?

I say if we're going to "save the Internet," let's start by saving it from silly ideas like Net neutrality regulation.

posted by Adam Thierer @ 11:07 AM | Cable , Communications , Free Speech , Net Neutrality , Wireline

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