Net Neutrality Foes: What If The 'Bad Guys' Are Right?

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It is hard to find good arguments against net neutrality, though as the FCC's comment period moves forward we'll probably start seeing some. It is also too easy to characterize opponents as big companies desperately clinging to obsolete technologies.

I am a supporter of net neutrality rules. However, the issue is too important to not take counter arguments very seriously. Even if they are fronted by industry shills like John McCain, the top recipient of campaign cash from neutrality foes.

Proponents describe net neutrality as being right up there with religious freedom, Mom, and apple pie. However, if the FCC decides to make net neutrality the law, that is exactly what it will be: A law intended to protect one set of freedoms at the expense of another.

Net neutrality rules will trample the free market, supposedly in the name of creating a more free market. The FCC will be making decisions that some say should be made by customers in a free marketplace. If only a free market for consumer and business telecom services really existed.

Before imagining that the FCC is going to solve all problems with a sweep of its magic wand, let me remind you this is the same agency that got us into this mess in the first place.

Like the way the cellular industry does business, with hardware subsidies, customer lock-in, and exclusive handset deals? That's the FCC's doing, my friend. A clear case of caving-in to an industry the FCC was supposed to regulate on behalf of public interest. An industry now embroiled in the neutrality debate, and which has given us a second-rate wireless network.

The broadcast industry was better off, I think, before the FCC caved-in on ownership rules and the movement of stations from little cities to big ones became a torrent. We've never been able to carve out a real "media policy" in this country. Instead, we don't regulate when we should and regulate when we shouldn't.

As someone who has held various FCC licenses (and worked for licensees) since age 12, I think the FCC tends to make little decisions right and big decisions wrong.

You can say that's because the Commission tends toward being the lapdog of the companies it's supposed to regulate. I do, often.

Barack Obama hired Julius Genachowski to change this. The new FCC Chairman has gotten right to work and is doing a good job.

Still, in considering as important an issue as the future of U.S. telecommunications, we should not rush to judgment. We should also not allow disgust with the status quo to blind us to the gravity of what is being proposed.

We need to listen and carefully consider both sides. Even if, frankly, it's hard to find a really good argument against Mom, apple pie, or net neutrality.

David Coursey tweets as @techinciter and can be contacted via his Web site. He is also a broadcaster and amateur radio operator.

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