Net Neutrality: FCC Saves Us From Our Unreasonable Selves

On a mission to preserve "basic Internet values," U.S. government takes Internet out of the hands of the capitalists that developed it.

The Internet: It's Not Fair! Thanks to the FCC for fixing. (Image from the cover of It's Not Fair! by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld)
Julie Jacobson · December 27, 2010

The Internet is broken. Billions of dollars of infrastructure lie fallow. Factories continue to churn out ever more books and discs and other archaic pieces of media that overwhelm our landfills. Americans isolate themselves without access to world news, affordable communications … and streaming Netflix.

Yeah, right. The Internet in America is in such shambles that we need government to rescue us.

The FCC is rising to the occasion! On a 3-2 vote, the commission passed a rule (pdf) that prohibits Internet providers from blocking or slowing access to legal content, under the guise of “net neutrality.”

The rules are sketchy and certain exceptions apply, but the gist of the ruling is that broadband service providers (wired only, not mobile … yet) cannot outright block legal sites – Netflix or Skype, for example – and they may not be able to otherwise discriminate against them.

“Today, for the first time, we are adopting rules to preserve basic Internet values,” said FCC chairman Julius Genachowski. “For the first time, we’ll have enforceable rules of the road to preserve Internet freedom and openness.”

I’m wondering: Who established “basic Internet values” in the first place? Private enterprise and consumers did. So why do we need government to “preserve” them?

According to President Obama, the government’s management of the Internet will help to “advance American innovation, economic growth, and job creation.”

The implication is that private Internet enterprise has stifled such progress and that government can correct its course – perhaps like it did with the banks and the car companies? While I don’t condone the bailing out of Wall Street and Detroit, at least something clearly was broken there. 

What, exactly, is wrong with our Internet?

Personally, I think broadband is quite expensive. I really hate paying Comcast $60 per month for it, plus additional fees for special content and services. And I’m sorely disappointed when we’re having a slow network day, gosh darnit.

One day I may tire of my plan – me and millions of other customers – and someone will step up with a better offering, thus advancing “American innovation, economic growth, and job creation.”

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When Comcast threatened to throttle Netflix if Level 3, the digital distributor, didn’t pay a new recurring fee, Americans cried foul.

Sure, it would have been a real bummer. It could have raised the cost of Netflix a buck a month. Whose business is that? The government’s? No, it’s between Comcast, Level 3, Netflix and their customers.

If we decided to go with the flow, to pay the extra dollar or so for Netflix, then Comcast makes some extra money to “advance American innovation, economic growth, and job creation.” If not, then perhaps we take our business to Redbox, which could “advance American innovation …”

With its “reasonable network management” clause, the FCC may leave open the opportunity for ISPs to slow access to certain sites—as long as there is “no unreasonable discrimination.”

With that, critics warn that we could face usage-based pricing (gasp) and endure preferential treatment for some content providers who pay extra for “fast lanes” (egads). Of course, the FCC would monitor such practices for “abuse.”

Really? That’s the calamity we face?

Craig Aaron, managing director of Free Press (“Reform Media, Transform Democracy”), says the FCC squandered a real opportunity to “safeguard the Internet’s level playing field ….”

He declares that the wimpy new rules “will for the first time in Internet history allow discrimination online.”

I’m not sure when the Internet was ever non-discriminatory. For example, it often discriminates against people who don’t have the right version of Flash, who can’t afford the fastest service, or who refuse to enable cookies.

Net neutrality is the FCC’s attempt make the Internet “fair.”

At no time did We the People of the United States pledge to promote general “fairness.”

From my seasonal CE poem:
Netflix would stream
With all pixels intact
By way of free markets
Not federal act. ...

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It's Not Fair! by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld)" />
  About the Author

Julie Jacobson, recipient of the 2014 CEA TechHome Leadership Award, is co-founder of EH Publishing, producer of CE Pro, Electronic House, Commercial Integrator, Security Sales and other leading technology publications. She currently spends most of her time writing for CE Pro in the areas of home automation, security, networked A/V and the business of home systems integration. Julie majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, spent a year abroad at Cambridge University, earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin, and has never taken a journalism class in her life. She's a washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player currently residing in Carlsbad, Calif. Email Julie at

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  Article Topics

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