Care about Your Cable Bill?

Around the office these days, most mentions of “nets” are part of our NCAA basketball trash-talking (or groaning, in my case). In the larger policy world, however, I’m hearing a number of conservative groups warning about the dangers of “net neutrality.”

“Network neutrality” means Internet Service Providers (ISPs) shouldn’t discriminate between types of web content. Sounds good – after all, no one wants certain sites blocked without their permission. But it turns out that when you turn this pretty picture over, there’s a tangled web of regulations and disincentives attached (which you can learn all about from FreedomWorks and The Heritage Foundation).

On top of that, market forces already keep Internet operators away from censorship – who would be stupid enough to block sites, unless they wanted to lose customers immediately? I can’t tell you how many Townhall readers have changed ISPs because their ISPs’ well-intentioned-but-faulty spam blockers were keeping them from receiving their daily Opinion Alerts.

Unfortunately, the House Energy and Commerce Committee is considering telecom reform legislation that will add net neutrality and other new regulations to the cable industry, as well as adding price controls and even a “franchise fee increase” (a gentle way of describing a tax hike). According to a coalition of conservative groups, these barriers will decrease competition, increase cable bills, and hurt consumers in the long run.

As Jason Wright noted in a recent op-ed, Congress’s decision to get out of the way of the telecommunications industry in 1996 was the catalyst behind the “explosive growth and innovation in the American technology sector [that we’ve seen] in the past decade.” CFIF president Jeff Mazzella says it more bluntly: “Government regulation means less Internet innovation!”

You can encourage Congress to stay out of the way by signing this letter to Congress.