Net neutrality is the latest overreach by the federal government to censor the web. Rules passed by the Federal Communications Commission in December limit the ability of internet service providers, including wireless providers, cable and phone companies, to offer tiered pricing levels based on content, applications, and other factors related to amount or type of usage. The internet has changed with the rapid rise of online services like YouTube, Netflix and Skype which consume large amounts of bandwidth, slowing down internet service for others.
Proponents of Net neutrality insist that it merely keeps the status quo, prohibiting “discrimination” by a few dominant internet providers, and “ensuring” free speech. In reality, it will increase regulation and costs by restricting companies from making marketwise choices. Moreover, additional government rules and regulations rarely increase freedom of speech.
Leading proponents of Net neutrality include Google, no doubt due to its recent purchase of YouTube, one of the heaviest users of bandwidth on the internet. Companies like Microsoft, IBM, and Amazon have gone along with Net neutrality, believing it was inevitable and hoping to have some say in how the rules were drafted.
There are several left wing public interest groups pushing Net neutrality, led by Free Press. The Federal Communications Commission selectively took information from those left wing organizations to justify its new rules. The Commission’s vote split down party lines, 3-2, with the three Democrats on the Commission voting to ban “unreasonable discrimination” by broadband and wireless providers against internet websites and applications, although more leeway is provided to wireless providers. Obama praised the rules, seeing it as a step towards fulfilling his campaign promise of preserving a level playing field for web developers.
Granted, the FCC’s new rules do not go so far as broadly prohibiting internet providers from charging different pricing based on usage or speed. A user who uploads and downloads movies or mp3s all day long, taking up considerable bandwidth, can still be charged more than someone who infrequently uses the internet to briefly look at the news. However, the rules do limit internet providers’ discretion to pick and choose which applications or websites to block.