If future historians paint a fair picture of this president, they will present him as a man who went to great lengths to fix problems that were wholly within his own imagination. He’s content to ignore (or actively facilitate) illegal immigration, terrorism, suffering veterans, and an out-of-control IRS, but he is raring to go when it comes to “problems” like universal pre-K, the Cuban embargo, and climate change.
The most imaginary of Obama’s problems is the future of the internet. For decades, the internet has gotten along just fine without undue meddling on the part of the federal government. Because lawmakers made several attempts to stick their noses where it didn’t belong, however, they managed to scare the tech crowd into a confused, illogical movement called “net neutrality.” Paradoxically, the movement calls for the federal government to take over the internet. To regulate it, just as they do the telephone companies. The same people who cried foul at bills like SOPA now want the same government to come in and stick a fork in the free market.
An Irresistible Invitation
The president was all too happy to heed those calls. After all, how often do Americans come pleading to the federal government, asking them to take something out of their hands? For a Democrat, the carrot was too tasty to pass up. Obama recommended to the FCC that they reclassify broadband internet under Title II telecommunications regulations, and on February 26th, the FCC will vote on whether to do just that. If insider speculation is anything to go by, they will. Net neutrality will become the law of the land.
Proponents say this will prevent cable companies like Comcast from dividing web traffic into fast and slow lanes. They essentially want the federal government to force these companies to improve their services. In doing so, however, they fail to realize how much power they are willingly giving up. Sure, it’s hard to feel sorry for a behemoth like Comcast – consistently ranked among the worst companies in America – but that doesn’t mean you throw out the baby with the bathwater.
Given enough room, the free market can fix any problem. Money talks. In certain areas of the country, Google has already begun rolling out ultra-high speed fiber optic internet. Verizon has done so in many of their markets. When there is customer demand for better service, better service will arrive. But when the government takes over, those incentives disappear. Monopolies will not just be tacitly permitted, they will be enforced. How many innovations have you seen at your local DMV?
When Obama promised that he would bring hope and change to the White House, he meant it. The change is exemplified by increased federal oversight and the deterioration of the free marketplace. The hope is that after he’s gone, a new president will be able to roll back the worst of his policies and restore the principles upon which America was built. But as his days in office get shorter, the change gets worse and the hope grows dimmer. Saddest of all, millions of Americans are cheering him on.