Obamacare for the Internet

As a faltering economy forces many families to struggle to make ends meet, Americans are increasingly skeptical of government approaches to problems that seem to do more harm than good. Putting faith in Washington bureaucrats and out-of-touch politicians is a losing proposition.

This ongoing government failure represents opportunity for real solutions through innovation, cooperation, and the individual initiative that comes with free enterprise. 

Fortunately, we have a terrific model of success right before us in the Internet, which is perhaps the best example of how a free economy can thrive, even in tough economic times.

With the development of broadband technologies over the last several years, we have seen an explosion of innovation that benefits Americans of all walks of life.

Broadband technologies have resulted in tremendous innovations and advancements for how Americans live and work. We’ve reaped huge benefits from online shopping and banking, telemedicine, online education, and the blogosphere holding news organizations and politicians more accountable.

Just a short time ago, computers, cell phones, and other technologies were available only to the wealthy. Now, they are everywhere. Today, over 95% of Americans have access to broadband.

These advances have occurred as a result of a free economy operating with minimal government interference.  

Life on the Internet itself is a bottom-up world that organizes without the need for bureaucrats or politicians to run things. Facebook groups, online forums, websites, meet-up communities, and scores of other examples demonstrate the power of the virtual and free public square.

But against this successful backdrop, some want the government to step in and tell Internet service providers (ISPs) how to run their networks. The new chairman of the Federal Communications Commission is so zealous in his quest for government control that he is threatening to classify the Internet as an old-fashioned 1930s telephone monopoly. This is a government takeover, plain and simple. And it threatens all the gains that have been made up to this point.

Although FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski is attempting to disguise this government takeover as some sort of “compromise,” no one is fooled. The vast majority of Americans openly oppose regulating the Internet. And the FCC’s attempt to apply an 80-year-old economic model to a 21st Century technology is absurd. Worse, they are doing it to address a problem that simply does not exist. The Internet is one of the few sectors of the economy that is not broken.

Applying a backward, big-government approach that will do what big government always does—stifle progress, kill jobs, and hurt taxpayers and consumers. 

And not only that, but the FCC wants to regulate the Internet in a way that circumvents Congress and the courts, and reverses the FCC’s own longstanding rules.

Clamping government controls on ISPs would diminish, if not halt, the tens of billions in private investments made every year, and there is not a single American who would benefit from that.

Net neutrality only makes sense in a fantasy world where Washington throws overboard the wishes of the people, taxpayers and consumers. 

In other words, net neutrality is Obamacare for the Internet, only worse. Worse, because whereas our health care system needs real, consumer and patient-based reform, the Internet is an unbridled success story where the best thing that government has done is not place roadblocks to real progress. 

According to a recent study, Hispanics are increasingly getting online, and close to 70% will be broadband users by 2014. This is quite remarkable, considering the lack of Internet accessibility that existed for the general American market just a few short years ago.

Still, many regions with large Hispanic populations do not have the same level of broadband access common in other parts of the country. A heavier burden on Internet providers discourages further investment in network infrastructure and makes universal broadband access harder to achieve. 

This result would negatively impact education, health care, financial services, and other vital segments of the economy.

Hispanic unemployment is currently 12.4%, 2.5% higher than the national average. Broadband has been a highlight not just in terms of Internet usage but also in terms of jobs for the Hispanic community and for all Americans. Stifling broadband adoption in any way hurts Hispanic Americans and all Americans.

The Hispanic Leadership Fund has a track record of speaking out on the importance of broadband access and increased adoption rates nationwide.

We urge the FCC to focus on the critical issues of broadband adoption in underserved communities and government transparency, and to avoid imposing additional bureaucratic red tape on an industry that has led to advancement and opportunity for all Americans.

To save the Internet, Americans should oppose the government takeover of it through so-called “network neutrality” rules and other harmful federal government regulations.