For those in the communications policy business, perhaps the most jaw-dropping datum to issue from Tuesday’s elections is this: Of the 95 candidates for the House and Senate who signed a petition encouraging “net neutrality” regulation, all of them lost. Not some of them. Not most of them. All of them.
It’s really quite remarkable. Not even the Black Death killed everybody. But there it is, a new world record for political toxicity. The humorous aspects of this debacle aside, there is a serious lesson here: There is no appetite in this country for regulatory schemes whose effect is to promote government (and a few companies) at the expense of private-sector investment generally.
Yet this is precisely what net neutrality regulations, whether Lite or industrial strength, would do. Intended or not, codified regulations would inevitably lead to government meddling in this freest part of the communications industry, and frustrate the kind of investment in the broadband infrastructure without which there can be no growth in this vital sector of the economy.
And for what? As mentioned here, net neutrality is the condition that obtains today! Nobody is being deprived or disadvantaged of anything worth talking about. Indeed, a quick look at the kinds of organizations that have been promoting net neutrality pretty much says it all.
On the one hand we have groups like Free Press, whose interest in the subject is precisely because of the potential in governmental oversight to yoke communications companies to the agenda of the nation’s “progressives.” While on the other you have a company like Google that, in the best tradition of crony capitalism, wants to tilt public policy in a direction that benefits its private interests.
It is widely believed that FCC Chairman Genachowski would like the FCC to be relieved of the responsibility of taking on the task of codification of the net neutrality rules. He is to be commended for his reservations, especially since he is under great pressure from the net neutrality lobbies to act.
The wise course now would be to let the clock run out on any kind of FCC action. If the Republican gains in Tuesday’s elections don’t speak clearly enough about the matter, surely the fate of the hapless signers of the net neutrality petition does.
[Updated 11-4-10, 1:50 p.m. EDT, to reflect latest election results.]
The opinions expressed above are those of the writer and not necessarily of The Media Institute, its Board, contributors, or advisory councils.