Obama Wants to Reclassify the Internet as a Utility

In a recent speech, President Obama laid out his plan for protecting the freedom of the internet. It involved reclassifying the internet as a utility.

Regulating internet service under Title II would mean reclassifying it as a utility, like water. This means that internet providers would just be pumping internet back and forth through pipes and not actually making any decisions about where the internet goes. For the most part, that’s controversial idea in the eyes of service providers alone. It means that they’re losing some control over what they sell, and that they can’t favor certain services to benefit their own business. Instead, providers would be stuck allowing consumers to use the internet as they want to, using whatever services they like without any penalty. If that sounds pretty great, it’s because that’s basically how the internet has worked up until now.

Yes. That is how it has worked up until now. And tell me, why would we need to reclassify the internet as a utility in order to protect a deregulated internet? Because certain companies want to restrict their own services? Sure. And why does that really matter again? If people care, they won’t buy internet service from such draconian service providers as Comcast and the like, right?

Well, it’s not that simple. Comcast has what some people might call a monopoly in large swaths of the US. And because of the infrastructure required to build an internet network, it’s difficult for other providers to break into the market in places where Comcast already dominates. And I’m sure you will be very surprised about this, but Comcast lobbies the civil government pretty heavily. And there is a revolving door between the FCC and Comcast. All of which makes it harder for the little guys to compete.

So then, the problem is actually civil government regulation and interference. So why should we believe reclassifying the internet as a utility is the answer? You can see the problem pretty clearly when you put Obama’s plan in other words: “We should regulate the internet to keep it deregulated.” Yeah. I’m not buying it.

This is a classic case of the growing specter of the civil government’s “Hero Syndrome.” In an effort to appear heroic, there is no end to the mischief our government will concoct. Trusting the civil government on this is like relying on an arsonist fireman to put out fires he started. The problem with the current internet situation is government corruption and regulation. Have no fear! The civil government is here to fix the problem they created—by getting even more involved. I’m sure that will do the trick.

Try this instead. Don’t protect Comcast or AT&T or any of the other big boys from competition. Do not reclassify the internet as a utility. Full disclosure: I don’t think public utilities need to be public either. I think, for instance, that roads could easily be locally funded and maintained by common agreement among the people who own the land around them. It would cost us less, and the roads would probably be better.

And the same goes for the internet. There is no reason why a local community could not create its own internet service. In fact, many local companies have invested in local infrastructure to provide better, more reliable, faster internet than Comcast or the other bottom liners. If the public would just refuse to buy service from people who don’t give good service, we wouldn’t need all the regulations. Believe me.

But if you think current utilities should continue to be public, why would you deny that the internet functions similarly to transportation, electricity, and water utilities? On what basis do you reject reclassifying the internet as a utility? Is it just because Obama recommends it? I don’t think that’s a good enough reason to reject proposed legislation. But perhaps I’m just too open-minded.