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A Solution in Search of a Problem

A Solution in Search of a ProblemGuess what kids? The internet is a seething cesspool of inequality and unfairness that has just been clamoring for someone to come along and regulate it. Somehow most of us didn’t see anything wrong with the vehicle we use to get our email, ‘like’ our friend’s Facebook posts or stream our music and video. But, as with so many things in life, the good folks in our nation’s capital are constantly on guard to protect us from pretty much everything. So, waving the standard of “Net Neutrality”, they are going to make the web a nicer place for all of us.

This whole issue apparently has arisen because some folks discovered that the “information superhighway” has been subdivided into fast, faster, fastest, and autobahn lanes that enable folks to pay for the bandwidth they want, or need, to run their businesses. Providers of streaming video services, for example, find that their customers tend to be predisposed toward watching their movies seamlessly rather than in two minute segments, so they tend to want access to a little greater bandwidth than your cousin’s on-line T-shirt business. Fortunately, for both the purveyor of streaming video—and your cousin—they are both able to get the access they are willing to pay for. Unfortunately, since we seem to be living in a world where the prevailing idea of fairness is that the government should apportion everything like your kindergarten teacher did the cookies at snack time, the FCC is going to step in to rectify this inequity.

Naturally, like all good regulation, this is all being done in secret. Apparently the good folks who haven’t had too much to do since the break-up of the telephone company and that whole “wardrobe malfunction” incident, have put together a 332-page plan to lay out the structure to ensure that nobody can update their Linked In profile faster than anyone else. Although rumors to its content abound, it appears that the brothers of Delta House had more insight into their plight when Dean Wormer put them on double secret probation than we will, at least until the plan is unveiled later this month.

Because most people tend to be somewhat resistant to change, Thomas Wheeler, the Chairman of the FCC, has chosen to use some time honored legislation to serve as the foundation for his coup. Yes indeed my friends, nothing says 21st century global communication than regulating the world wide web under the aegis of the Communications Act of 1934. Hey, if it was good enough for Ma Bell, it’s certainly good enough for Google. After all, isn’t figuring out how to impose an 80 year old statute on perhaps the freest and most open communications platform of all time what we look to our betters in Washington to do? And we didn’t even have to elect these guys—they’re appointed. Must be great to be one of five folks that have the power to bring billions of dollars in business to a halt, sorry, heel.

Chairman Wheeler—is it just me or does that honorarium have an ominous ring to it–has gone out of his way to explain that this is the best thing for all of us, and that his 332 page tome is really just a few guidelines to make sure everyone plays nice together in the sandbox. If the plan was so great, why would Verizon have dumped as much as they could of their huge FiOS investment to Frontier – can you say multi-billion dollar strategy change? And no one is talking about regulating rates or content or anything like that. Words that we can all take to the bank. Other than a flurry of lawsuits, I don’t think any of us can predict what the impact of regulating the internet like a common carrier will be. However, if I may paraphrase the great American journalist, H.L. Menken, let me say that, “regulation is the theory that the common man doesn’t know what’s best for him, and deserves to get it good and hard”.