Government Controlled Internet: What's At Stake?
June 18, 2015
In barely 20 years, the Internet and other communications breakthroughs have changed the world immeasurably. The information age has transformed economies, expanded growth and improved the quality of life for billions. It has also greatly enhanced freedom for individuals — political freedom in the public square, economic freedom in the marketplace and social freedom in the community.
What made all that progress possible was that Internet developers, innovators, investors and operators were able to work largely free of government restraint. Today's Internet, with competing networks and an almost endless array of apps, was not created or funded by the government. These are all marvels of private-sector ingenuity. And these incredible advances in Internet and digital technologies have happened because there have been few government regulations to stifle innovation and competition.
But now all of these freedoms are being threatened by our own federal government and governments around the world, which intend to control and tax the Internet:
- New Federal Communications Commission rules would turn the firms providing consumers access to the Web into regulated public utilities (this is promoted under the name of "net neutrality"). The regulations would severely restrict providers' ability to innovate and invest in new services and technologies.
- Congressional efforts have been made to authorize states and localities to collect sales taxes on Internet commerce from businesses not located in their state, subjecting businesses nationwide to tax authorities in 50 states and perhaps 10,000 local jurisdictions nationwide. That will place almost impossible compliance burdens on small online retailers and their customers.
- Local regulators have moved to throttle new businesses spurred by the Internet — including "sharing" services from firms such as Uber and Airbnb. In every jurisdiction, bureaucrats stand ever ready to expand their turf and protect entrenched interests by imposing unnecessary and outdated rules on "upstart" innovators. If the bureaucrats succeed, consumers could lose access to these wildly-popular services.
Source: Jim DeMint, "Saving Internet Freedom," Heritage Foundation, June 12, 2015.
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