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The FCC's Orwellian Internet policy

Bret Swanson, president of the technology research firm Entropy Economics LLC | Feb. 26, 2015
Concise statutory statements are no match for the FCC’s linguistic gymnastics.

Turning language upside down is also effective -- and lots of fun. Many skeptics of regulation are worried that government intrusions into such a technical and dynamic realm as the Internet could slow its pace of experimentation and growth. So in hearings last month, one activist warned Congress not to "micromanage" the FCC, lest Congress interfere with the FCC's "flexibility" and capacity to "innovate." Brilliant! Two points for a reversal! 

Flexibility in one's advocacy is crucial, too. For the last decade, fans of government-run Internet argued that the U.S. had fallen woefully behind the rest of the world, with "pathetically slow" broadband and mobile. That's why we needed Washington to step in and run the Internet. But when consumers looked around them and saw a booming Internet sector, with an overwhelming rush of content, apps and devices, with loads of Silicon Valley startups achieving billion-dollar valuations, and with evidence piling up that the U.S. leads the world in Internet infrastructure, the argument lost its effectiveness.  

So the advocates switched course with great agility. "Consumers," the new argument goes, "like the Internet the way it is." Which is, of course, why we need 332 pages of new regulations -- to protect the thriving U.S. Internet . . . from the engineers and entrepreneurs who brought you the Internet.  

Unfortunately for the FCC, the courts will almost certainly overturn the president's plan, and so all its creative rationales will vanish into the wind. Genius denied. 


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