• Who Will Control the Internet?

      This week on STOSSEL (Thursday @ 9pm ET), I look at … The Future.

      When I watch movies from 20, 30 years ago and see flying cars, jet packs and the like…today’s “future” seems lame. Where are the floating hotels? Where is my robot servant?

      The most radical change over the past decade has been the internet. That happened without government regulation. Okay, Defense Department research created the first intranet, but what makes today's internet so valuable are end users--all of you creating stuff without having to get permission from  government. And of course, the private companies invested billions to make the internet even more useful—without having to get permission from government.

      But now, the ever intrusive FCC is determined to change that. The chairman argues that, without government regulation, private companies that own the tubes and wireless towers that make up the internet will play favorites—they will shut out or slow down traffic from competitors they don't like.  The FCC wants to be the internet “cop on the beat,” writes Peter Suderman in this month’s Reason magazine (he’ll be a guest on this week’s show):

      [FCC Commissioner Julian] Genachowski has finally managed to plant regulatory roots within the Net. On December 21, 2010, the agency voted 3-2 to pass a major regulatory order that no one outside the FCC had been allowed to see. Genachowski’s power grab had been accomplished in haste and secrecy as a lame-duck Congress prepared for Christmas…

      …In a highly unusual move, Genachowski decided to keep the text of the proposal secret until after it passed. The gist, though, was made plain enough by Genachowski’s remarks at vote: The FCC would finally have a rule prohibiting “unreasonable discrimination” on the major wired networks.  And who would be in charge of determining what sort of network management practices were “unreasonable?” Why, none other than the FCC.

      Such FCC policing would create a “mother-may-I” limit on internet innovation.   That’s a bad thing.   More on what it means for the future of the internet this Thursday at 9pm ET.

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