February 2, 2015

After the November election, President Obama called on the allegedly independent Federal Communications Commission ( FCC) to regulate the internet using the Orwellian net neutrality rules. Dubbing the regulations ” ObamaCare for the Web”, the Wall Street Journal explained ”The Obama Internet plan would treat cable, telephone and wireless broadband networks as common carriers subject to federal price controls and myriad other regulatory restrictions.

Like the telephone companies of old, broadband providers would be required to “file a tariff” at the commission, meaning they would submit mountains of paperwork and ask the government to approve the prices they intend to charge for services. The bureaucrats would then consider whether the prices are fair. FCC bureaucrats would also hold sway over plans to expand or build digital networks. Under such conditions, who would invest to build the next generation of broadband technologies?

Just the threat of President Obama’s regulatory chill over the internet forced AT&T to stop plans to invest billions in high speed broadband across North Carolina and the rest of the country.

But Obama’s FCC bureaucrats seem to have a solution if their price control regulations kill private sector investment in a faster internet. Government investment. Good old fashioned socialism. The FCC is considering rules making it easier for cities to spend taxpayers money on government owned cable , phone and internet systems.

In what one legal expert said would be an unprecedented legal interpretation , the FCC may overrule state level playing field laws limiting taxpayer subsidized, city owned broadband networks. Wilson, North Carolina wants the North Carolina law overthrown so they can expand their internet phone, high speed internet and TV to five surrounding counties.

North Carolina’s level playing field law passed on a bipartisan basis in 2011 with support from Republicans and Democratic leaders like Dan Blue. It requires cities to get voter approval before borrowing for broadband building, restricting cities from selling below cost or using other city funds to subsidize their networks and makes government owned broadband pay taxes like their private sector competition.

And that’s the unfairness of the whole thing. City politicians using tax money to undercut private companies that pay taxes.

For example, Time Warner Cable, Windstream, Dish Network, AT&T and DirecTV are using private capital to compete against Salisbury’s money losing, government owned broadband system. In fact, the city’s bond rating was slashed because of the system’s big debt and water and sewer rate payers have seen utility funds siphoned into the system. The law blocks cities from using such tactics to expand their reach.

North Carolina is one of twenty states defending the internet from government ownership. So is it any wonder Obama’s bureaucrats might want to swoop in preempting state safeguards against government control while simultaneously squelching private high speed internet investment with White House dictates? As the Wall Street Journal warns “Mr. Obama is trying to exert in his final two years in office the same political control over the Internet that he has already imposed on health care and banking. If he succeeds he’ll set a terrible precedent for despots around the world who also want to assert political control over cyberspace.”

That’s a scary idea that needs to be resisted. Let a thousand flowers bloom on the internet. Private, tax paying flowers on a competitive web, not the tax consuming ones from a government thought police