Here Comes The Internet Regulatory Creep

Tim Berners-Lee, creator of the World Wide Web, has declared that content should be free and open to all Internet users and that any variation is a violation of the principle of network neutrality. The sentiment is quite different than his explanation of net neutrality some years back.

In my paper Last-Mile Dilemma, I noted that,

“Neutrality of the Internet is rather the idea that individuals on differing systems of connectivity and differing speeds of delivery should still have the ability to communicate with each other without applications or locations on the Internet being blocked or the traffic purposefully slowed. This is what Tim Berners-Lee was describing when he said, “If I pay to connect to the Net with a certain quality of service, and you pay to connect with that or greater quality of service, then we can communicate at that level.”

That seems to be a different sentiment than his new stance that the Internet should be “free” and that users should have open access to all types of content that exists on the net. The idea that the principle of net neutrality is free and open access to anything on the Internet is one more notch in the belt of an ever changing definition of what net neutrality is.

Tim Wu, the man who coined the term “Network Neutrality,” was previously the chair at Freepress, and whose favorite book is Atlas Shrugged The Master Switch, and is now a senior policy advisor at the Federal Trade Commission for consumer protection in mobile and Internet markets has recently added an addendum to his ever growing list of Internet rules as well. He recently was noted stating that the government should create “term limits” for successful technology and Internet companies. And in his comments he makes no bones about his ideology of state socialism commenting that if a “company has clearly shown that it’s corrupt” then the federal government should “just nationalize their source code.” Wu fails to explain who would be making these decisions or advocate the federal governments authority to carry out these decisions. Being a legal scholar it would seem that this would be an appropriate and rational step.

Both Berners-Lee and Wu seem to be opposed to the app model now booming on many Internet devices and additionally based on their comments find services that have a pay wall to be a violation of net neutrality principles being that certain groups, i.e. those that are not subscribed, are blocked access from that service.

Proponents of net neutrality regulation repeatedly proclaim the notion that regulation will improve and encourage innovation on the Internet. What we have however are two individuals who have now been caught saying two different things. Net neutrality regulation will encourage innovation, yet if the innovation is too good and uses a subscription wall then it is a violation or if it becomes too popular and ventures into a zone that, based on some arbitrary system, someone declares monopolistic and corrupt then it is in violation.

Clearly those are not safe market conditions that a company could work within taking risks and making investments, and it is certainly not a free market. These notions are rather a utopian fantasy land in which companies operate under the whims of a federal authority and who would not be in the business of striving for financial success and profit, but rather offer all services free of charge and who run out to their money tree in the back yard whenever bills come due. The last few months have seen the opening gestures of regulatory creep on the Internet. We can (as is usually the case) look to Europe to see what we can expect soon. The creep is on its way.

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