One of America's leading authorities on technology and telecom policy, Motley is a writer, television and radio commentator, political and policy strategist, lecturer, debater, activist, and policy advisor to The Heartland Institute.
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Nothing in the history of humanity has grown bigger, faster or better – than the World Wide Web. In just about a quarter century, it has become an economic and political force of nigh immeasurable impact.
The Internet is a magnificent, unparalleled private sector success story. Yes, the Left reflexively and rightly states that the earliest, nascent Web steps were taken by the government – in the 1950s and 1960s. But there it sat, as a tiny little undeveloped lump – for a quarter century.
Then the magic happened. In the United States in the 1990s, the Republican Congress and the Democrat Bill Clinton Administration – up to and including the Administration’s Federal Communications Commission (FCC) – privatized the Internet.
This is the Internet’s Big Bang. But it isn’t a theory – it is demonstrable fact. The Web in government hands sat idle for more than two decades. Once the Web was handed to the private sector – the revolution happened.
In the U.S. – thanks to our privatization – it has become a $1-trillion-per-year free-speech-free-market-Xanadu. And its unleash has dramatically improved the lives of literally billions of people on our planet.
But the Internet has served as a Big Government Rorschach test. The more overreaching governments are – the less they like the unbridled freedom of the Web. And the more they look to rein it in.
Again, the Internet’s history: Twenty-five years of Big Government control – and total Web inertia. Then: Twenty-five years of privatization and Less Government – and mind-blowingly-explosive Internet expansion. Except where government has tried to remain Big and in the way.
The Barack Obama Administration inherited this quarter-century of Less Government success – and decided to in omni-directional fashion ramp up the Big Government. And the biggest Big Government power grab of all – was the Obama FCC’s 2015 reclassification of the Web.
“Reclassification” is a DC term – which in this instance translates into English as “much more Big Government.” What happened was: The FCC ignored the Internet’s titanic Less Government success story – and unilaterally changed the Web’s regulatory classification.
Gone was the very-light-regulation “Information Service” classification. Superimposed was the uber-regulatory “Communications Service” classification. “Communications Service” law dates back to 1934 monopoly communications law – and further still to 1887 monopoly railroad law. Both of those ancient regimes cause the mind to immediately leap to the 21st Century Internet, do they not?
The Obama Administration did this – to magically create all sorts of new regulatory powers over the Internet. First and foremost among them – the imposition of the completely ridiculous Network Neutrality. For all of this, the legal standing is dubious. The rational standing is nil.
Because in the history of the expression “If it ain’t broke – don’t fix it” – never has it been more aptly applied than to the private sector Internet. The Obama Administration set alight the Web – in order to “save” it.
In comes the Donald Trump Administration – and his (temporary – but hopefully, eventually permanent) FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. Trump ran on “big league” deregulation – and now he’s delivering. And Chairman Pai is willing and eager to hold up the FCC’s part of the bargain.
There were a LOT of Big Government gains under the Obama Administration. On the Web, the glaringly, obviously biggest of the Big – was this reclassification. Chairman Pai has said he wants to take a “weed whacker” to Internet regulations. He absolutely should. If ethics rules allowed – I would purchase the petroleum.
The Washington, D.C. Left – is freaking out at the prospects of this re-re-classification. (This freakout is suffered nigh totally byauthoritarian-minded elected officials and lobbyists. Let us not let them kid us that this is some sort of national uprising – it is not.)
To paraphrase Edmund Burke: Those who don’t know history – are doomed to look really, really foolish. These Leftists are pretending that this re-re-classification – is the end of the Web as we know it.
But it really isn’t. Again, the Internet was classified as an “Information Service” in the 1990s – after which the Web’s inconceivable expansion took place. And the Web was thus classified – until 2015. To ignore more than two decades of history – so as to freak out about less than two years’ worth – is really, really foolish.
Oh: And when Big Government Obama reclassified the Internet – Internet investment dropped precipitously.
Because as government expands – the private sector contracts. And, of course, conversely, as government contracts – the private sector expands.
Nothing teaches us this better – than the history of the Internet.
Trump and Pai know this. So do we. Let us ignore the DC freakout Leftists who do not.
[Originally Published at Red State]