“Net Neutrality” or Government Takeover?

Congress is confronted by many critical issues. We, as a nation, face serious and perplexing problems. On the domestic front, the battle rages between those of us who support individual liberty and those who promote the collectivist state. In international affairs, the Iraqi conflict needs a solution. So does the tragedy in Darfur. There are grave doubts about the continued viability of Social Security left as it is. The list goes on.

It is a surprise, therefore, that given these issues Congress is spending time considering a “solution” to a non-existent problem. But the claim there is a problem or crisis that the free-market cannot address has always been the technique used to expand government interference. Members are focused on trying to regulate the Internet when there is no need for regulation. As we have learned over and over in this country, markets work best when they are open and competitive. Government intrusion is a poor substitute for competition.

Indeed, government meddling too often results in creating more problems than already existed. When we create laws, we can create new problems we never considered. For example, in seeking patient privacy, our lawmakers have made it difficult for health care providers to use digital records. These records would save time, make medical information accessible to all professionals treating a patient, cut the number of errors and could substantially cut healthcare costs. But current laws and regulations stand in the way.

These unintended consequences are somewhat understandable when original intentions are well meaning. But in the case of Internet regulation €” misnamed “net neutrality” by its supporters €” there is simply no problem to solve.

The Internet has grown by leaps and bounds without government intervention. The calls to regulate the internet come from parties that seek to have complete access without contributing to the Internet’s development.

Imagine if you can, how ludicrous it would be, were our lawmakers to declare that every retail establishment has an equal right to prime real estate €” without paying the higher price such real estate could command. That just doesn’t make sense. Any party has the opportunity and right to seek available real estate, but the best locations command the best prices. That’s the way the free market works.

If we were to give government the ability to regulate the Internet, we would open the door to significant regulations on freedom of speech and consumers would suffer. The government, not customers, would be in the position of determining the market winners and losers.

Today, consumers have their choice of methods of connecting to the Internet. We can use dial-up service. For faster access, we can choose DSL or cable broadband. If we are away from home, we can find free WIFI or subscribe. We can use wireless Internet service from our cellular provider. We even can choose satellite broadband €” an option especially beneficial to those in hard-to-reach areas.

Because our system is open, these various networks have grown as they have found markets. Companies have invested billions of dollars in building these infrastructures.

If the government was to step in now and regulate the development and marketing of these networks, we would see the investment dollars dry up rather than continue to expand them. And we €” the consumer €” would be the losers.

I would rather see the Internet develop as it has until now €” uninhibited by government regulation. As a consumer, I can determine the Internet access I want. And if large companies want a network that will deliver streaming video or other large content, every consumer shouldn’t have to subsidize an Internet backbone that will handle that heavy load of traffic.

Just as some people want to shop at the mega-store on the highway and others prefer a boutique on the town square, different consumers want different tiers of Internet service. That is as it should be. Let’s leave the Internet alone and focus the attention of Congress on real problems that cry out for lawmakers’ intervention “Net Neutrality” or Government Takeover?