Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Net Neutrality and DISCLOSE Act: A two-pronged attack on sites like this one

image In today’s Wall Street Journal is report on the FCC’s move to impose stricter regulation on the Internet. A similar attempt by the agency in 2005 was thrown out last April by a federal court. Unbowed and defiant, the FCC is taking another bite at the apple. At stake is the eventual regulation of internet service as a telecom or public utility. Ed Morrissey at Hotair.com calls the current compromise proposal a “bullet dodged.” But I’m not so sure.

I have known no government effort to regulate or control something stop at the first step.  That crucial first step is always one on a slippery slope. As the WSJ piece notes, it’s a matter of concern for service providers and small startups alike, and it has liberals huffing that it doesn’t go far enough:

Net neutrality has become a contentious issue as worries grow that large phone and cable companies are growing too powerful as Internet gatekeepers. Start-ups and small businesses that rely on the Internet to provide shopping, information or other services to consumers are particularly concerned.

The FCC has wanted to step in and act as an Internet traffic cop, but Congress has never given it clear authority to do so.

"We must take action to protect consumers against price hikes and closed access to the Internet—and our proposed framework is designed to do just that: to guard against these risks while recognizing the legitimate needs and interests of broadband providers," FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said in a blog post this month.

Liberal activists and some consumer advocates have sharply criticized the proposal, saying it allows too much leeway to big broadband providers and falls well short of promises made by President Barack Obama, including limits on how the rules apply to mobile broadband networks.

The proposal will certainly be challenged in court, using the same arguments that led to a successful block earlier this year. And the new Congress—elected in large part by a majority expressing anger at the ever-growing reach of the federal government—is just as likely as not to gut the FCC’s budget for enforcement. A battle looms that will play out through the 2012 elections.

Meanwhile, the left is eager to pursue the Orwellian DISCLOSE Act, which was narrowly defeated in the US Senate just before the November bloodbath that swept Republicans into power in the House.  Thank GOD:

In the past week, Senate Democrats considered a bare-bones strategy for the measure that would involve stripping the bill down to just the disclosure requirements, effectively setting up a vote for or against transparency.

With time running out before Senate heads out of town, however, leaders have decided to begin debate with the bill they voted on before the August recess. That vote attracted 58 votes in the Senate, two shy of the 60 needed to overcome a filibuster.

Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) was absent the day of the vote and has told watchdogs he will vote in favor of the bill, so supporters need to flip just one of Maine’s senators to break the filibuster.

The measure would have forced sites like this one to file full disclosure on all sources of revenue if they engaged in the ordinary exercise of First Amendment rights. If this blog were to carry a series of opinion pieces opposing or supporting a particular candidate for office or a ballot measure, I would have to eventually either shut down the site or spend countless hours and money filing Federal Election Commission reports, even if not one cent of revenue came from political campaigns, PAC’s or party organizations.

Meanwhile, big labor unions and other traditionally leftist groups would be exempted from the legislation’s requirements by the loopholes carved out by lobbyists and opponents of free speech.  It exempts non-profits with 500,000 or more members. Special provisions were included to keep the National Rifle Association on the sidelines.  It is an onerous and blatant attempt to squelch speech that favors individual liberties, smaller government, lower taxes and a better business climate.

Speech that readers saw here daily in the run-up to the November elections.

Give the government the opportunity to control who accesses the Internet, and the government will certainly limit the access of its critics. Give the government the opportunity to control not only the access to free speech but the content of the expression itself, and it is certain to do so.

Net Neutrality and the DISCLOSE Act are nothing more than a two pronged attack on conservative voices, and they absolutely must be stopped.


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