An incredible thing happened in the recent reply-comment period regarding the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) proposal to regulate the Internet like old-fashioned monopoly telephone service: the side telling the agency not to regulate carried the day.
The radical left, demanding federal regulatory control of the building blocks of Internet, brought all the usual hype and hoopla and had free-spending corporate backers in Google and Netflix, who want regulators to force you to pay the costs of their downstream bandwidth, so they won’t have to.
This campaign by liberal special interests like MoveOn and the Sierra Club converted forty thousand websites into campaign advertisements urging visitors to support Internet regulation.
The websites participated in a stunt called “Internet Slowdown Day.” These sites lied to visitors, claiming that without unprecedented new government regulation, broadband providers would start slowing down and degrading service.
Of course, such a thing has never happened, even without politicians in charge of the Internet. If a broadband provider ever tried such a stupid move, they’d lose customers in droves, and the board of directors would fire the CEO. The very fact these sites had to fake a slowdown should serve as proof that liberals are engaging in pure fantasy.
My organization, American Commitment, refused to let these rent-seekers and ideologues claim to speak for the American people.
For years, these groups had played a double game, acting as if they only wanted reasonable, “light-touch” regulation when talking to the general public, but boasting among their fellow travelers that, in the words of the founder of “slowdown” organizer Free Press: “the ultimate goal is to get rid of the media capitalists in the phone and cable companies and to divest them from control.”
So we rang an alarm bell. Loud. We launched StopInternetRegulation.org to mobilize comments from regular Americans who oppose the Internet being reduced to a government-controlled public utility.
When all was said and done, the huge liberal pro-regulation campaign, which dubbed itself “Battle for the Net” claimed they sent 777,364 comments to the FCC.
StopInternetRegulation.org, in just three weeks, beat them by more than 30,000 comments. Our total was 808,363. We won the battle for the net.
Does it matter? Should it?
Would the FCC, which is supposed to be an expert agency, actually make policy decisions of enormous consequence for the U.S. economy based on an email plebiscite? It appears they fully intended to, which is frightening.
Liberal activists embedded inside the FCC have been cheering on their allies and planned to tout the number of pro-regulation comments in a self-serving effort to increase their own power. Probably because stoking the liberal mob is easier than engaging in a substantive debate proponents of regulation can’t win.
At the height of the “slowdown” campaign, Gigi Sohn – a longtime leader of pro-regulation group Public Knowledge who is now a senior FCC staffer – tweeted: “If you're participating in #InternetSlowdown pls consider filing your comment via openinternet@FCC.gov. It's faster & each will be counted”
She didn’t say each would be read and considered on its merits. She said each would be “counted.” It was a numbers exercise, and the liberals lost.
Now that the agency has been denied the cover of pretending the American people want the Internet regulated, they should turn to their actual jobs – undertaking a sober analysis of the actual merits of the proposal – which are severely lacking.
The idea of reducing a vibrant, competitive, well-functioning, privately-funded market to a government-controlled public utility has been dubbed the “nuclear option” on Wall Street because it would obliterate the private sector capital investment that has made the Internet a remarkable engine of economic growth, innovation, and creativity.
Now the FCC should give up its desire to regulate and allow the Internet to keep improving as it has for decades.