Among the issues most commonly discussed are individuality, the rights of the individual, the limits of legitimate government, morality, history, economics, government policy, science, business, education, health care, energy, and man-made global warming evaluations. My posts are aimed at intelligent and rational individuals, whose comments are very welcome.

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07 April 2010

Net Neutrality Enforcement by the FCC and Free Speech

Net Neutrality is a term that brings back memories of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) requiring that conservative as well as liberal viewpoints had to be aired on television networks, local TV stations, and radio stations after the events of the late 1960s led many to believe the country was about to fall into the hands of socialists.  Ayn Rand, perhaps due to her early experience with a country having been taken over by socialists when she was a child in the Soviet Union, was in favor of this requirement as a last gasp attempt to prevent a socialist takeover in the United States.  This was one of the few major issues that I disagreed with her on.  While the socialists were hurting the country, I did not think they were on the verge of taking the USA over and putting it under their control.  I thought that Americans who believed in the principle of individual rights still had sufficient means to make use of their free speech rights.  I thought it was dangerous to do anything that would interfere with free speech and set a precedent for such interference in the future.  This turned out to be the case.

Moving to the present and the recent past, we have heard a great many complaints from the socialists associated with Obama and the Democrat Congress about people with viewpoints in opposition to theirs.  This atmosphere of control over speech by the left has long been the rule on most college campuses.  An intricate matrix of politically correct viewpoints are allowed and those with viewpoints outside this matrix are called bigots, rednecks, NASCAR people, trailer trash, and racists.  Students not on board are threatened with expulsion and faculty with a failure to gain tenure.  The socialists clearly do want this same politically correct culture of restricted free speech to be transferred into every American's life.  In many companies, particularly large ones with considerable government business, political correctness rules the day.  Obama's and his comrade's comments about Fox News have not only expressed dislike of that organization's multivariate viewpoints, but have sometimes suggested a desire to limit what it can say with regulations and controls.  Other of his friends have expressed a desire to control what is said on the Internet.  This is hardly surprising given that the left, wherever it has free reign, as it does on most college campuses, has always lost its interest in free speech.  In fact, no socialist country ever tolerates free speech in the way we have traditionally in the United States.

With this as background, let us consider what Glenn Beck has to say in the video clip of a part of his program here.

While much of what he says is true, some perspective is needed.  First, the primary issue of Net Neutrality is whether the companies that operate the lines that provide us with our Internet information should continue to be able to manage the flow of data to optimize the overall service.  As is the case with all resources, bandwidth on these Internet lines is finite.  It is not always the case that everyone hooked up to such a line can upload and download as much data as they wish.  The lines sometimes become overloaded.  The most vociferous and determined company opposing Net Neutrality is Comcast.  This is probably because Comcast has less bandwidth than, say, does Verizon in many areas.  They have no choice but to limit user access in some way.  Allegations have been made that they limited that access in ways that gave their own content an advantage over the content of others.  This may be true, but it is not clear that the issue was one of their trying to cut off socialist or conservative viewpoints from their subscribers.  Some companies, especially those who dealt with large files that they want to send to their customers and who take in large files sent to them from their customers, do not like the fact that Comcast sometimes did not allow a large file to be uploaded at a particular time when they had too little bandwidth to meet the demand.  All the other major Internet line providers also assert that they need to manage their bandwidth also, since all of them have finite bandwidth.  The Net Neutrality proponents do not want any special restrictions aimed at them, despite the fact that they produce many large files that rapidly fill the finite bandwidth of the Internet provider's lines.

Some socialist organizations have banded together with the large file handling point-to-point companies in favor of Net Neutrality.  Why?  Probably because they simply want to get the power of the FCC expanded to give them the power to regulate the Internet.  And yes, they no doubt do want the FCC to later use this power to regulate the Internet to control the viewpoints expressed on the Internet.  That is not the immediate issue being addressed at this time, however.  These socialist organizations are also trying to establish their expertise on such Internet matters and gain publicity.

Of course, we should remain alert to any increase in the powers of the FCC in any case.  It has much too much power now and it does have a lot of potential for the future misuse of that power specifically to allow those in power to squelch viewpoints at variance with their own.  The FCC has always tended to act in restraint of the free markets and this has never been a good thing.

Fortunately, the U.S. Court of Appeals in D.C. ruled on 6 April 2010 that the FCC has failed to show that it has the authority under Title 1 of the Communications Act of 1934 to tell broadband Internet providers how they could manage their finite bandwidth issues.  At least, the FCC could not do it the way they were attempting to do it.  Being a grasping federal agency always looking to expand its power, the FCC will try and try again to gain control over the Internet, but it has not yet found the formula for doing so.

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