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Policy: Technology

Don't shackle the Internet with regulations

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Opinion,Op-Eds,Technology,Government Regulation,FCC,Net Neutrality,Internet

I have a friend who owns a small Internet service provider out West. Though his company is fine and thriving for now, the Federal Communications Commission has proposed rules that have him concerned.

“I’m getting worried about being regulated out of business,” said my friend, who we’ll call “Bill,“ since he does not want to be identified while he has pending business before the FCC. “I’ve started to talk to companies that might buy me out,” Bill told me. “I don’t want to wait until the FCC makes my work and investment worthless.”

What’s going on here? Well, the FCC has embarked on its third try to write regulations to ensure that the Internet remains “free and open.” These so-called “Net Neutrality” rules would turn Bill’s private property into essentially a public utility. By year’s end, it’s expected the FCC’s regulations will be implemented with the force of law — even though they’re a completely unnecessary step taken to “fix” a perfectly healthy marketplace.

When this happens, Bill loses. So will consumers.

In most any other segment of our economy, Bill would be free to offer his services in a way that he alone chooses. But the FCC’s new rules will restrict what he can do with his property to serve his town.

“I built my network and customers on my own dime,” Bill explains. “But because I offer Internet communications, the FCC now says I serve the public interest. So, I’ll have to open my ‘shelves’ up to all competitors, and I can’t charge them anything more for access to the customers I built.

“How can anyone run a business like that?”

That’s the point, really. And it goes well beyond the FCC.

With each day, more and more of the U.S. economy falls into the federal government’s controlling grasp. Since 2009, Americans have been subjected to an avalanche of regulations that have greatly limited their economic freedom, the fertile ground of any successful marketplace. Last year alone, the Federal government issued more than 26,000 pages of final rules — the highest ever. Compliance with all those regulations cost Americans nearly $2 trillion.

Just think — $2 trillion in tribute to federal overseers instead of what otherwise could have gone into the goods and services Americans want.

Hundreds of federal agencies now lay claim to protecting little pieces of the public interest. Each demands that those subject to its rules seek permission, down to the tiniest detail, if they want to stay in business. More often than not, this politically driven process makes markets sicker, not healthier.

A healthy marketplace is a far better, more creative force than government power. Spontaneously, markets allocate resources and inform us without anyone having to go to a centralized authority for an “OK.” Government regulation disrupts all those market signals, however, replacing the choices of free people with the will of the political class.

Bill knows it does not need to be that way. Where the marketplace has fewer rules, Americans have benefited. The Internet is a prime example. Over the past decade – when the regulations were low – the Internet exploded with creativity and speed. And, consumers got more of what they wanted at ever-lower prices.

Regulating the Internet to make it “free and open” would actually make it worth less. That’s because it undermines the economic freedom of those like Bill who are bringing goods and services to the marketplace.

The FCC is just one regulator among many. Altogether, they act like a massive brake on our freedom and prosperity. The $2 trillion we needlessly spend on the regulatory machine is an awful lot to pay the “king” just to keep businesses open.

What a racket.

Mike Wendy is president of Media Freedom, a nonprofit that opposes the FCC's proposed "net neutrality" rules. Thinking of submitting an op-ed to the Washington Examiner? Be sure to read our guidelines on submissions for editorials, available at this link.
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