Saturday, February 28, 2015

The Net Neutrality Crack-Up

By Holman W. Jenkins Jr.

Generations of high-school students have chuckled over the line, in Henry George’s 19th century book “Progress and Poverty,” that “If a man build a ship we make him pay for his temerity, as though he had done an injury to the state; if a railroad be opened, down comes the tax-collector upon it, as though it were a public nuisance.”

That’s the cable industry, which invested to create the nation’s high-speed broadband platform and now is being punished for it. Cable invested when, for regulatory reasons, the phone companies wouldn’t. Now the Obama administration says we need strict regulation because there’s not enough competition for the fast broadband option that only a lightly regulated cable industry was willing to build.

To dispense with one justifying myth, utility regulation is being imposed under a false flag, to solve a net-neut problem that, as even the FCC has acknowledged, has long since vanished from the marketplace. This week James Dolan of Cablevision announced falling TV numbers and told investors, “Connectivity has surpassed video as the primary product for a company like ours.” By “connectivity,” he means giving Web customers access to whatever they want.

Here’s another truth: Most of the big tech names like Google , Apple, Facebook and Microsoft have kept quiet as net neutrality morphed into a Title II utility-regulation agenda because they didn’t want to be attacked by left-wing groups, and because they trusted Tom Wheeler and Mr. Obama not to screw up an Internet that was working well. They’ve been blindsided, if not cheated, by the Obama administration. Only Netflix among the biggies went a different way for its own peculiar and dishonorable reasons, somehow inveigling the FCC into treating interconnection and peering as a net-neutrality issue, which it previously wasn’t.

Read the rest here.

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