Obama and the Media, Part II

Apart from the economic effects of President Obama’s fiscal and regulatory policies, there arises the question of how “business friendly” he may prove to be.

The media and communications sector plays a large and important role in the general economy, and the new Administration’s stance on issues that matter to this sector may answer that question.

As mentioned in Part I of this piece, three such issues are consolidation, content controls, and “network neutrality.” The first two were described in the earlier post, today’s looks at the third.

Like beauty, “net neutrality” seems to exist more in the eye of the beholder than in any objective sense. This can be seen in the difficulty that attends even a simple definition of the term, and in the disparate opinions expressed for and against it.

But what can’t be disputed is that passage of any kind of net neutrality legislation would mean that government had acquired a new role in regulating the Net, with consequences certain to be both intended and unintended.

This expansion of the role of government, and concomitant reduction of the private sector, is of course no concern to groups like Free Press who, true to the “class struggle” mindset of their founder and president, worship everything governmental.

But it is a considerable concern to those corporations and investors whose labor and capital are indispensable elements in the further buildout and efficient functioning of the Net.

And this isn’t even to mention the problem, identified by the late Ithiel de Sola Pool, of the risks to free speech when a heretofore unlicensed and unregulated medium (his example was print), evolves into one that is licensed and regulated.

Given the paucity of evidence that broadband service providers have abused their roles in re  censorship or quality of service issues, and that in fact all of them have taken steps publicly and privately to allay such concerns, the wise and business-friendly thing would be for Obama and his people to declare victory in the campaign for net neutrality, disclaim any need for legislation, and move on.