Today in a speech long on platitudes, but short on specifics, new Obama FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski served notice to privately owned networks, companies and to individuals, that the Obama Public Option meme will soon be turning its eyes toward what has been a safe harbor as the rest of the economy has been driven into the tank by overregulation and government meddling: the Internet.
The timing of the announcement may be telling. Federal regulation and eventual takeover of the private networks that form the Internet has long been top on the list of the “net-roots”, far left activists that hold themselves responsible for Obama’s victory in 2008. But as Obama’s ratings continue to plunge and two critical left-wing dreams, socialized medicine and the cap-and-trade energy tax, begin to have their prospects sour, it may be that the President finds a need to offer the left wing a sop. The good news is that this could mean a pull back from one of his more devastating left-wing health care elements.
Only moments into his speech, Chairman Genachowski tellingly dropped the non-sequitur that the government had funded the first successful ARPANET test that let to today’s Internet. He fails to mention, however, that until the government permitted private entry and dominance of the Internet, it remained an egg-headed backwater that completely lacked its present transformative ability.
In a staggering display of irony, Genachowski went on to describe all of the wonderful innovations that have developed in the online world over the last dozen and a half years. Then concludes that if we want all this innovation to continue…we have to change the environment that allowed them to occur. What?
By returning to government dominance of the Internet, Genachowski is convinced that he knows more than the market that has permitted every development he mentions. From Google to eBay to Wikipedia to Facebook to Twitter, every one of these occurred with a free internet. Not the crowbar and shoehorned internet Genachowski thinks will be better. It is confusing to see someone use the great realized successes of the free internet as an argument to regulate it further.
Even when Genachowski turns his attention to the future, he’s counteracting his own arguments. The exciting developments he mentions in health care will require specialized network management. Otherwise your open heart surgery could get bumped by a teenager hogging all the local bandwidth to steal the Lord of the Rings trilogy before his parents get home.
The FCC Chairman seems to not understand the basics of the free market. Bandwidth is a commodity, not unlike healthcare. It just can’t be given away for free no matter how much the legislators legislate. There will either be shortages, or the free market will set prices and deliver mechanisms. The Obama administration is revealing itself to be exclusively of the opinion that shortages are better than free markets.
Good news though, once Genachowski is done, we can use the Internet to email our Spacewar! scores to our cousin at MIT. That might be it though—it was the last time the government ran the internet.