Don't squash Internet innovation
Last week, President Barack Obama posted a YouTube video announcing his belief that broadband Internet companies must be forced to adopt the strictest rules possible to regulate what information they provide to customers, and at what price and speed.
While over-regulating dampens innovation in many other industries, the rapid pace of development and change in technology — particularly regarding the Internet — renders most applicable laws or regulations out-of-date almost as soon as they're implemented.
The Internet regulations being considered would stifle innovation in an area of technological advancement that has prompted economic growth and a whole new economy.
These regulations would also discourage some of the most forward-thinking companies in the country from diversifying and exploring new avenues for growth, putting the U.S. at a disadvantage at home and in its ability to lead the world technologically.
Obama is essentially reclassifying the Internet as a "telecommunications service," rather than an "information service," which it's been for decades.
Under the new rules, companies that have built the infrastructure of the Internet, the backbone that allows content providers to sell their products, would have to treat those products equally with their own products, while charging nothing extra for that service.
This means companies like Netflix and Vimeo, whose video content requires large amounts of data and bandwidth, would have their products on equal footing with those created by Comcast or Verizon, which are paying for the delivery infrastructure.
Since the latter have invested billions of dollars to build that Internet infrastructure, it would seem fair they be able to charge high-data content providers to pay extra fees to ensure reliable service for their products. Nothing — except their own desire to get it for free — stops Netflix or other high-data streaming companies from creating their own high-speed cables on which their content can be delivered.
Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler has come up with a compromise proposal that basically allows two levels for the Internet. One level concerns retail, which would still be classified as an information service. All other functions would be classified as an Internet provider level, and would be subject to regulation similar to utility companies.
That's still objectionable, as it falls well short of keeping the Internet free of undue government interference.
Courts have twice struck down the FCC attempt to regulate the Internet. The new GOP-controlled Congress should redo the sorely outdated Communications Act rather than apply its faulty logic to a burgeoning Internet industry.