Nick Dranias, Director of The Goldwater Institute’s Centre For Constitutional Government, poses the question of whether so-called “net-neutrality” (AKA government internet takeover) regulations, as proposed by FCC Chairman Genachowski, violate the First Amendment.
Mr. Dranias notes that:
“In Comcast Cablevision v. Broward County, Judge Donald M. Middlebrooks struck down a county ordinance that forced a cable company to give its competitors equal access to its communication infrastructure. Much like advocates of net neutrality argue today, the county government argued that its “open access” ordinance did not offend the First Amendment because it ensured the transmission of more, rather than less, information by more companies. Judge Middlebrooks rejected that argument, ruling that the First Amendment prohibits government from forcing owners of communication infrastructure to transmit information against their will. He also held that government has no power to force the distribution—or “circulation”—of information because “[l]iberty of circulating is not confined to newspapers and periodicals, pamphlets and leaflets, but also to delivery of information by means of fiber optics, microprocessors and cable.”
He concludes by comparing net neutrality to “forcing a printer to publish books, newspapers, periodicals, pamphlets and leaflets on the government’s terms. And when it comes to government seizing command and control over freedom of the press, the First Amendment is anything but neutral.”
Yet another reason that net neutrality is a very, very bad idea.