-By Warner Todd Huston
Just before election day the liberal blogs were aflutter with news that 95 Democratic Congressional candidates had taken the pledge to support Net neutrality if they were elected. That turned out to be a very big “if.” More like a forlorn hope, if you will.
Of those 95 Democrats, the number actually going to Congress in January will be… zero. There hasn’t been a wipe-out like this since the Redskins beat the Broncos 42-10 in the 1988 Super Bowl. Or since Atlantis was swept into the sea, or something. As far as Internet policy is concerned, last night’s lesson for Republicans should be clear: Internet “neutrality” regulation is a loser with the public. It’s also a loser with businesses. It’s even a loser with the labor unions. That’s not a surprise. Union leaders can sometimes get realistic very quickly when confronted with a federal policy that will cost their members jobs.
Increasingly, net neutrality also seems to be a loser with federal regulators themselves. Just prior to the election, an official with the Federal Communications Commission blasted the pro-neutrality group Free Press for handing out waffles at the Commission one morning saying, “While they are busy handing out waffles and making posters, we are focused on creating jobs and protecting consumers.”
Will the far leftists such as the Moveon.org wing of the Democratic Party continue to make noise about net neutrality? Probably. And as the late Lee Atwater used to say, when you’re watching your enemy walk off a cliff, don’t get in his way.
But if they do, it will be even easier for Republicans to draw a sharp policy distinction. Following are some suggestions for the GOP’s Internet policies when Congress returns:
- Focus on job growth: Remember that even through this downturn, communications companies have increased their capital investment. That’s jobs, pure and simple.
- Cost is key: The biggest barrier to making broadband universal across America is cost. Competition, not government policy will make prices competitive.
- Explaining why regulation is a disaster: A recent headline from Fortune tells the whole story: “Uncertain of future regulation, businesses are paralyzed.” Net neutrality would expand this uncertainty across the Internet just as Obama’s other policies are doing to manufacturing, banking and any number of other sectors.
- Emphasizing the benefits of tomorrow’s Internet in everyday terms: Net neutrality is about gutting tomorrow’s Internet by standing in the way of innovation. Want your hospital to have a dedicated connection so a specialist 1,000 miles away can make a real-time diagnosis of your condition? No chance with Net neutrality. If Free Press gets its way, we can kiss a lot of progress goodbye.
Republicans have a window of opportunity to kill this Net Neutrality monster and substitute policies that make good business sense. Net Neutrality as envisioned by Free Press and the left will strangle the one new technology that has the greatest chance to improve all our lives even more than it already has.