|15A020 The New Public Utility by Jim Davies, 3/18/2015
Thanks to socialists everywhere, the Internet is now to be governed like your local, friendly phone or power monopoly. It's one dreadful step, like the boiling of a frog, towards total control over what can and can't be said on the Net, of which I wrote last month in Bypassing the Censor.
They confuse Internet "freedom" with Internet governance. That contradiction arises because these mindless young banner-wavers have been brought up to identify the enemy as corporations rather than government; they chant the mantra that Big Business, the "1%", is to be opposed above all. Far too few of them can have read Dogs and Tails.
So in groundless fear that some companies might pay extra to have their content delivered faster (like Fedex vs. the USPS) they might suffer a slight degradation of the standard speed of web -page downloads to which they are used. I don't know whether or not that is true, but trust the market enough to expect that if it's a problem, ingenuity will solve it. No government intervention is required.
But intervention is, alas, what we got. The FCC has given itself the power to regulate the Net as a public utility such as telephones, TV and electric power. Its future will therefore consist of bureaucratic supervision, control, and taxation. Just a matter of time.
Phone service is perhaps the closest analogy to the Net, and my phone bill shows seven different taxes, amounting to a 46.86% surcharge on the amounts billed by the company actually providing the service. (In addition of course all manner of taxes are built in to that billed amount, because all company taxes are always passed on to the customer.) Phones came to be a virtual necessity, so once people were... hooked on phones, the taxing classes got busy and ripped off another 46.86%. Today about 87.7% of the North American population uses the Net, so we are ripe to be ripped off there too. Last week's dismal news came right on time.
The electric power industry is regulated up the gazoo, even after the "deregulation" which re-introduced a degree of competition. Had government stayed completely out of power generation, nuclear plants would have proliferated much more slowly (because the cost of insuring them for liability would have been crippling) but they would be under construction now rather rapidly, the safety problems having been largely overcome. Other forms of generation, including thorium and possibly multi-use solar, would meanwhile have been competing so as to deliver the best possible mix of price and safety; and the hokum about having to suffer only one cable to the end user would have long since been discarded.
Worse by far than the cost increase to be expected is the control over Net content, which the FCC ruling will give the government. Using the time-worn excuses of suppressing porn and/or terrorism, censors will be employed to govern what may not appear. Once users are conditioned to their presence, the other shoe will drop and the present abundance of well deserved anti government sites and articles will disappear - just as they cannot be found on TV, radio or mainstream newspapers. There's an excellent analysis here by Ryan McMaken that shows the likely extent of the damage this will do.
There is however an alternative view, expressed by Gary North, that there's no need to worry; that regulators of the Internet Utility will be "a flea on an elephant’s back. Nothing fundamental is going to change." He expects that as soon as a regulation blocks off access to one part of the Net, "some kid in China" will find a way around the restriction. He has a point, and it's a pleasure to find such optimism.
If prudence is our guide, it will be well to hold both these viewpoints in mind; to make the best possible use of an unrestricted Net while we can, building one's own library from what is already available, while preparing to do without it for a while prior to E-Day.