Politics & Policy

Like Obamacare? You Will Love ObamaNet

The Information Superhighway, circa 1930. (Keystone/FPG/Getty)
It would regulate the Internet as if it were a 1930s telephone company.

In his relentless drive to leave no aspect of American life unmolested, Obama’s next stop is cyberspace. Having “reformed” U.S. medicine, Obama now aims to “repair” the World Wide Web. If you like Obamacare, you will love ObamaNet.

On February 26, the Federal Communications Commission will vote on a “net neutrality” proposal to regulate broadband networks as if they were telephone monopolies from the days when copper wire was high tech. ObamaNet would let Uncle Sam intervene in the price, product-innovation, and capacity decisions of Internet Service Providers (ISPs).

Net neutrality? Let’s call it net brutality.

Like Obamacare, ObamaNet would impose complex rules via Title II of the Communications Act of 1934. FDR signed that legislation seven years after The Jazz Singer — the first feature-length talking picture — and seven years before Pearl Harbor. Astride this 81-year-old steed, Obama would lead the Internet’s charge into the 21st century.

Once ObamaNet ropes ISPs into Title II, they would need FCC approval for new products, business models, data-traffic operations, and more. Rather than focus on inventions and improvements, Silicon Valley executives would have to machete their way through Title II’s 682 pages and 987 rule sections. They could ask “forbearance” from these regulations. Good luck. According to the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, the FCC makes the average applicant wait 372 days — one year and one week — for an answer. Since 1996, about 69 percent of such requests have failed, at least partially.

This is heaven for attorneys and hell for software coders, entrepreneurs, and consumers.

Like Obamacare, ObamaNet also would pick pockets. “For the first time, billions of dollars in fees will be attached to the Internet service, just like they are to telephone service,” warns Senator Mike Lee (R., Utah). ISPs then would “pass them on to you, the consumer.”

Liberal-think-tank scholars Robert Litan of the Brookings Institution and Hal Singer of the Progressive Policy Institute (PPI) calculate annual increases in state fees of $67 for landline-broadband accounts and $72 for wireless subscriptions. Federal taxes per household will rise $17. They predict that “the new fees could reach $15 billion per year.”

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Why does Obama want to squeeze $156 annually out of each typical broadband customer? What agony would ObamaNet assuage?

Give Obama this: Though unaffordable, gargantuan, and tyrannical, Obamacare does address a legitimate challenge: Insuring Americans who lack health coverage. The need for a lower-cost, pro-patient replacement remains vital; yet Obamacare — despite countless flaws — at least attempts to answer a real-life problem that vexes millions of Americans.

One cannot say this about ObamaNet.

Is any American so inclined unable to go online? Cheap computers with built-in browsers grant instant access to the Internet’s treasures. If one cannot buy an Internet-capable computer or smartphone, federally subsidized libraries offer free gateways to Amazon, eBay, Hotmail, Wikipedia, YouTube, and virtually every recorded example of human wisdom and folly via Google.

Obama claims that evil ISPs are delaying faster connections and denying consumers access to their speediest networks. “You’re watching the loading icon spin,” Obama complained on January 14 in Cedar Falls, Iowa. “You’re waiting, and waiting, and waiting. And meanwhile, you’re wondering why your rates keep on getting jacked up when the service doesn’t seem to improve.”

Obama really should escape his socialist bubble.

As PPI’s Lindsay M. Lewis explained in Tuesday’s Wall Street Journal, “More than 90 percent of American households are now served by connections capable of neck-snapping speeds of 100 megabits per second. (Streaming a movie from Netflix on the ‘ultra high-definition’ setting requires a connection of only 25 megabits per second.)” This very op-ed reached NRO’s editors via a connection that Time Warner Cable upgraded last month. My former 100-megabit line now can handle 322 million bits every second, at no extra cost.

The once-gleaming “Digital Divide” now rusts in the Left’s political-slogan junkyard. ObamaPhone.com (for real) reports that ISPs offer “high-speed broadband to the very same people that [sic] qualify for the Obama Phone. Only $9.95 a month. There are cheap Internet plans for both cable and DSL.”

ObamaNet is a monstrous “solution” desperately seeking a problem. ObamaNet is as urgently needed as a fire engine at the base of Niagara Falls, poised to battle any blaze that might erupt.

The Internet is not broken. Obama should not “fix” it.

— Deroy Murdock is a Manhattan-based Fox News contributor and a media fellow with the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace at Stanford University.

Deroy Murdock — Deroy Murdock is a Manhattan-based Fox News contributor and a contributing editor of National Review Online.

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