New attack against Net Neutrality utilizes scare tactics

A group that opposes Net Neutrality efforts is using scare tactics to fight the government's efforts to impose regulations over broadband access se
Written by Sam Diaz, Inactive

When all else fails, launch a scare campaign.

That's exactly what Americans for Prosperity - a group that's reportedly backed by the telcos, among others - is doing with a new $1.4 million campaign to fight Net Neutrality.

At a time when people are actually believing everything they hear on TV, the Washington-based activist group has launched TV commercials that puts Net Neutrality right there alongside government bailouts of the banks, the mortgage insurance industry and the automakers. In fact, it claims that "Washington wants to spend billions to take over the Internet." (see YouTube video below)

What? I have written quite a few things about Washington's role in Net Neutrality and I don't ever recall reading or hearing anything about Washington spending "billions" to "take over" the Internet. How can a group like AFP make such a claim?

The group does make a point about the Internet experiencing massive growth over the last decade because "government stayed out of the way." You know what else happened when government stayed out of the way? The mortgage bankers, unregulated and free to hand out loans to people who couldn't afford them, sent the housing market into a complete tailspin.

That's not to say I want the heavy-hand of government in the broadband pot either, but I'd prefer that over the providers of broadband calling the shots on what gets through the pipeline and what doesn't.

Sure, when the Internet started and companies like AOL and Compuserve were closed, membership-based content providers, as well as access providers, it was appropriate to classify them as information services.

But since then, broadband service has really morphed into more of a utility like telephone or electricity service. Comcast, AT&T and other providers aren't giving providing me with online content - they're providing me with access to that content. Imagine your electricity provider trying to tell you that you can power a toaster or a lamp with its service but that you can't power an air-conditioning unit or that air compressor in your garage with its electricity.

Politics aside, there are some facts to be considered:

  • The latest proposal from the FCC calls for the "transmission component of broadband access service" to be the only piece of the Internet that would be regulated by the government, ensuring that there is equal access and pushing forward a plan that would bring broadband service to underserved areas.
  • The Internet has flourished without government regulation but, as the type of content being pushed through the Internet pipelines has grown, some are using more than others. If the telcos can start charging more for - or blocking - certain types of content from moving over their networks, it could slow the innovation and adoption of heavy-usage services, such as video and telephony transmissions.
  • President Obama himself has said that it is unacceptable that the United States ranks 15th in the world in broadband adoption. And it's kind of embarrassing, too. Proposals to bring broadband and broadband services to the entire nation are long overdue. While I'm not suggesting government heavy-handedness here, I do believe that there needs to be some regulation to ensure that broadband is made widely available.

If you don't agree with the direction that the government is taking in the regulation of broadband access, then that's your right. If you want to tell all of your friends to call Washington and demand that they keep their paws off the Internet, then that's your right, as well.

But please be factual about the information that you're putting out there. The government is not trying to spend billions to take over the Internet - as if the Internet itself were listed on an eBay auction.

In a post-9/11 America, the government used plenty of scare tactics - remember the WMDs? - to get us into Iraq. And while the consequences there were far greater than being able to stream Hulu on your PC, the tone of this group's TV commercials sound very familiar.

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