Editorial: Free market is better for the Internet

The debate continues over whether the Federal Communications Commission’s December repeal of the Obama administration’s “net neutrality” rule will help or hurt rural communities’ bid for greater access to high-speed Internet service, and now it has become an issue in this year’s race for a Nevada U.S. Senate seat.

Recently there was a vote in the Senate using the Congressional Review Act (CRA) in an attempt to restore net neutrality rules. The vote was 52-47 with every Democrat and three Republicans voting in favor. Nevada’s senior Sen. Dean Heller, a Republican, voted against it.

Its chances of clearing the House are slim and President Trump would likely veto it anyway.

Las Vegas Democratic Congresswoman Jacky Rosen, who is running for Heller’s seat and is likely to advance to November after the June 12 primary, proudly announced in a press release that she signed a discharge petition to force a vote in the House on the Senate-approved CRA to restore net neutrality protections.

In a recent interview, Sen. Heller said, “We had a vote last week and I voted against the CRA that would take us back to Title II, which frankly is 1930s-type regulation. If you go back to Ma Bell, for those of you who remember Ma Bell, frankly that’s how  they want to regulate the Internet, and that was reversed.”

Title II of the Communications Act of 1934 concerns “common carriers,” such as phone and power lines. The FCC’s 2015 net neutrality order put the Internet under Title II, rather than under Title I, which covers information providers. Title II prohibits “any unjust or unreasonable discrimination in charges, practices, classifications, regulations, facilities, or services.” With the repeal of net neutrality by the FCC, the Federal Trade Commission still has authority to police predatory and monopolistic practices.

“Nevada’s hardworking families, small businesses, and students have voiced strong opposition to the Administration’s repeal of net neutrality protections,” Rosen’s press release quoted her as saying. “As Republicans in Washington roll back rules protecting a free and fair internet, I will continue to stand with Nevadans in the fight to keep corporate interests from stacking the deck against regular Nevadans who want a level playing field. I urge my House colleagues to join me in signing this discharge petition.”

How did the Internet survive before 2015?

But Heller, who is a lock to win the GOP primary, insists, “I do not want the federal government to determine content. … I also don’t want the federal government to tax the Internet. I believe the Internet is the last bastion of freedom in America, frankly both good and bad, but it’s freedom. You put this thing back under Title II and eventually this government will determine content and this government will tax it, and that’s what I am trying to avoid.”

Before the FCC canned net neutrality, Rosen had argued, “Undoing net neutrality will hurt our economy and will make it harder for startups and Americans to conduct their business, stifling innovation and growth. Access to free and open internet service providers is especially important for Nevadans living in rural communities.”

Heller counters by saying, “We are going to provide — I think it is a free market stance — in that we want there to be more competition out there. Under Title II you lose the kind of competition that is necessary for technology to advance.”

Heller said he is working on legislation that would encourage expansion of rural broadband service, but also, “I do believe that if you put too many restrictions on access to the Internet all you are going to do is deprive it of the ability to grow and the technology to advance, and that would include the ability to get out to rural areas.”

A Wall Street Journal editorial at the time of the FCC repeal of net neutrality noted that the rule had throttled investment. But, anticipating repeal, Verizon Wireless had said it will start delivering high-speed broadband to homes over its wireless network late this year, and Google and AT&T were experimenting with similar services that would be cheaper than laying cable underground. “This could be a boon for rural America,” the paper said.

Free markets will find the way, not the heavy hand of government regulators.

A version of this editorial appeared this week in some of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel,  Sparks Tribune and the Lincoln County Record.

It is so unfair that some can pay more for faster Internet connections

The FCC has voted to end net neutrality.

It makes you wonder about all those who have been arguing — and you can find dozens of them on the Internet — that it is so unfair to allow some people to pay more to get in the online fast lane while others are stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic. It is so unfair.


Net neutrality … or government confiscation of private property?

NY Times photo

The socialist editorialists at The New York Times never miss an opportunity to miss the point.

The Times is praising the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit for upholding the Federal Communications Commission’s Obama-backed net neutrality rules that treat Internet providers like monopoly utilities. The 2-to-1 decision forbids Internet service providers to offer upgrades in delivery speeds for a price.

The decision helps to ensure a level playing field for smaller- and start-up internet businesses because it precludes larger, established companies like Amazon and Netflix from simply paying broadband companies for faster delivery,” the editorial states. “Equally important, it ensures reliable service and choice for consumers by acknowledging that the internet, now a requisite of modern life, is akin to a utility, subject to regulation in the public interest.”

Isn’t there a public interest in food? So why do grocers charge more for beef than chicken? It’s all meat.

Forbes contributor Hal Singer labeled the decision economically illiterate.

“In an ideal regulatory regime, (1) the FCC would be compelled to apply cost-benefit analysis, showing that the benefits of the ban exceed the costs (and that no less-restrictive alternative generates even greater net benefits); and (2) a reviewing court would scrutinize the FCC’s cost-benefit analysis,” Singer writes. “Neither happened here.”

Just like the old Ma Bell had to reason to innovate, Internet providers will now have less incentive to improve services for anyone and everyone since there is no more profits to be netted.

Singer quotes a passage from the 69-page dissent of Judge Stephen Williams to make this point:

The Commission’s disparate treatment of two types of prioritization [paid peering versus paid prioritization] that appear economically indistinguishable suggests either that it is ambivalent about the ban itself or that it has not considered the economics of the various relevant classes of transactions. Or perhaps the Commission is drawn to its present stance because it enables it to revel in populist rhetorical flourishes without a serious risk of disrupting the net.

Democrats won’t stop until there is no private property left, and, once there is no private property, all other rights are in jeopardy.

As economist Milton Friedman once said:

Government has three primary functions. It should provide for military defense of the nation. It should enforce contracts between individuals. It should protect citizens from crimes against themselves or their property. When government– in pursuit of good intentions tries to rearrange the economy, legislate morality, or help special interests, the cost come in inefficiency, lack of motivation, and loss of freedom. Government should be a referee, not an active player.

Channel 13 fined by FCC for making ads look like news

The enforcement arm of the FCC has completed an investigation of KTNV-TV, Channel 13 and has fined the station $115,000 for broadcasting car dealership ads disguised as news “Special Reports.”

“Broadcasters are not allowed to deceive the public by presenting commercial announcements or other paid programming in the guise of news or editorial content,” said Travis LeBlanc, chief of the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau. “Transparency is especially crucial in a situation like this one where a pseudo news report invites viewers to rely on their perception of the station’s independence and objectivity when, in fact, the message has been bought and paid for by an undisclosed third party.”

Frankly, I don’t ever recall seeing one of those “Special News” — Who in their right mind watches Channel 13 “news” anyway? — but it doesn’t sound all that deceptive. I’m sure most people who’ve stopped believing in Santa Claus saw through the ruse. What about the First Amendment? Even if the airwaves are limited, which in this day and age is a joke.

The FCC “uncovered” the fact an advertising agency paid Channel 13 to produce the “Special Reports” about liquidation sales at local Dodge, Chrysler, Jeep, Nissan, and Hyundai car dealerships in Las Vegas in 2009. The reports featured a KTNV staff person on location at the dealerships posing as a journalist.

The station, in addition to the fine, must implement a compliance plan and file compliance reports with the FCC every year for three years.

The local newspaper said station managers were not available for comment.

Neither were the newspaper’s managers available to comment on how relieved they are that there is no FCC oversight of newspapers.

The Society of Profession Journalists has an ethics code that includes:

Journalists should:

– Deny favored treatment to advertisers, donors or any other special interests, and resist internal and external pressure to influence coverage.

– Distinguish news from advertising and shun hybrids that blur the lines between the two. Prominently label sponsored content.

The code also says:

Journalists should:

– Expose unethical conduct in journalism, including within their organizations.

I don’t recall anyone blowing the whistle on Channel 13 back in 2009, but, like I said, who watched Channel 13? Perhaps this is one reason why.