This year, the Obama administration took steps to end its contract with ICANN, a California nonprofit organization that manages basic Internet functions, including the creation of Web addresses and domain names. Once this contract expires, ICANN will be governed by a global, multi-stakeholder community that could grant nations such as Iran, Russia and China more authority over the rules and regulations that govern the Internet.
President Obama this week came out aggressively for net neutrality and Turning the Internet into a public utility. Some in the online community have embraced this call, thinking that cheaper prices would result. But when has that worked? Government-regulated utilities invariably destroy innovation and freedom. Which is more innovative, the U.S. Postal Service or Facebook and Twitter?
If the federal government seizes the power to regulate Internet pricing and goods and services, the regulations will never end.
We must recognize that our constitutional rights are digital rights, too. In 2012, those who care about Internet freedom were shocked as bills such as the Stop Online Piracy and Protect IP acts, which would regulate speech on the Internet under the guise of protecting property rights, started gaining popularity in Washington. Thankfully, online activists were quick to mobilize to protect their free-speech rights. But we must remain vigilant. Intellectual property must be defended, but any threat to quell speech on the Internet must be treated seriously and subsequently defeated.
We must promote growth in the technological sector, a consistent bright spot for the U.S. economy. But we won’t realize more of that dynamic growth unless we keep the Internet free from the kind of unnecessary regulation that is strangling our health-care, energy and banking industries.
And one of the biggest regulatory threats to the Internet is “net neutrality.”
In short, net neutrality is Obamacare for the Internet. It would put the government in charge of determining Internet pricing, terms of service and what types of products and services can be delivered, leading to fewer choices, fewer opportunities and higher prices.