Friday, October 23, 2009

John McCain's Internet Freedom Act is Eminently Warranted

I voted for Barack Obama, don't like Fox News, and think our health system is in need of long due reform. I thought the McCain campaign was one of the worst in years, bringing lowlights ranging from Sarah Palin to Joe the Plumber on to center stage.

But John McCain's Internet Freedom Act, a bill introduced to make sure the FCC does "not propose, promulgate, or issue any regulations regarding the Internet or IP-enabled services" - in the wake of the FCC's unanimous vote yesterday to move forward with debate and promulgation of net neutrality rules - deserves the support of everyone who values the First Amendment and our freedom.

Net neutrality seeks to make sure that the Internet remains a level, open playing field, not dominated by corporations that may give favored treatment - charge less or nothing - for services that may line the pocket of the corporations but deprive users of better services. I strongly support the ideal and practice of net neutrality.

But I strongly oppose any attempt to make this happen by FCC fiat. I take "Congress shall make no law ... abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press" - the First Amendment - seriously.

A surprising number of people miss this. Tony Bradley, writing today in PC World, asks - about what McCain's bill seeks to prevent the FCC from doing - "Isn't that what the FCC does? Isn't that sort of like introducing a bill to prohibit the Treasury from printing money, or a bill to prohibit the IRS from collecting taxes?"

Sadly, yes, and no. Yes, this is what the FCC does - including levying millions of dollars of fines for television programs it finds objectionable - all the time. Even though there is a First Amendment. And yes, tax collection is what the IRS does. Because, like it or not, the Sixteenth Amendment gives our government that power. But the First Amendment has not been repealed or amended, last time I checked.

We have become so accustomed to its trampling that Bradley's argument almost seems plausible. But every violation of the First Amendment makes the press - in newspapers, radio, television, and blogs - less able to do its job for us, which is ever keeping a watchful eye on our democratically elected government, so we can be as informed as possible in the next and every election.

I doubt I could ever vote for John McCain, even with his introduction of this important bill. But he deserves our thanks for introducing it, and the bill warrants our support. We can work for net neutrality in many ways - especially with our patronage of sites and organizations that do the right thing. Extending the FCC's unconstitutional regulation from radio and television to the Internet is manifestly not the way to go about it.

See also The Flouting of the First Amendment
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