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Reason Foundation

Net Neutrality: A Chicken Little Syndrome

Steven Titch
May 10, 2006, 5:37pm

"Every child knows the parable: think twice – and think for yourself – before believing the hysterical warnings of those who tell us that disaster is imminent. So if children get the message, why can't some lawmakers?" So asks Jason Wright, president of the Institute for Liberty and co-founder of the Internet Freedom Coalition, in a pointed op-ed on the network neutrality issue in Thursday's San Francisco Examiner. Dismayed by the rush of high-profile legislators like Reps. Ed Markey (D.-Mass.) and Nancy Pelosi (D. Calif.) and Sen. Olymipa Snowe (D-Maine) to pick up on MoveOn.org's hysterical call for regulation of the Internet, Wright urges some clear thinking.
"Indeed, it is difficult to figure out exactly what the perceived 'problem' is. The evidence presented by MoveOn to support their case is scant. Its Web site, the ridiculously misleading www.savetheinternet.com, is full of examples of what "could" happen if regulations aren't enacted. By that standard, Congress could act preemptively on thousands of what-ifs. What if the maker of my DVD player, Sony, suddenly decided I could only watch films by their production company on a player bearing their logo? That presents real problems for me, given that they didn't produce Chicken Little. Congress should act fast. Those lobbying Congress for these new regulations claim that Net Neutrality rules are the "First Amendment" for the Internet. They're wrong. The unprecedented regulation MoveOn seeks limits innovation by restricting certain businesses from the option of seeking more reliable connections to support advanced services like Internet television and Internet voice telephone service. As this debate continues in the weeks ahead, lawmakers should remember that the Internet has thrived under free-market conditions and that small businesses and individuals are limited only by their own ideas as to how to use the Internet. The captains of the Internet industry, including Google, Yahoo and Amazon, those who have made billions on a largely regulation-free Internet, should know better than anyone the limitless possibilities the virtual free-market provides. They should be the last voices trying to restrict or control what customers do with the Internet. They and the many competing Internet service providers in the marketplace know that mistreatment of customers will lead only to one thing: Customers fleeing with their wallets to a more friendly reception from other players in the Internet game."
The full text of Wright's piece can be found here.


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