George Gibbs Center for Economic Prosperity

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By: Sal Nuzzo / 2017

The hypocrisy of the left never ceases to amaze. Liberals shout about the inherent evil of monopolies, unless it’s the government monopoly. Whether it’s health care, education or any other area of our economy, the left preaches one thing and governs the exact opposite. Consider the following easy examples — liberals and their counterparts claim to want to improve access to health care and then promote a government-run monopoly on health care that will destroy it (single payer). They claim to care about students and then fight school-choice initiatives that are saving hundreds of thousands of poor children trapped in failure factories of government-monopolized public education. And now they have shifted their duplicity into the battle over the future of the internet and their desire to control how you access and pay for technology services.

A bit of perspective is in order: Over the course of the entire history of the Internet, we have survived just fine, free from the heavy hand of government intrusion. Technology innovated from the days of AOL disks that would arrive via snail mail and dialup (remember that sound?), to the advent of DSL, to iPhones and 5G fiber-optic lines. We now possess more power in our handheld smartphones than was used to land a man on the moon.

And then in 2015, like a Ronald Reagan analogy come to life, we witnessed the arrival of “the federal government, here to help.” Enter “net neutrality.” First off, it’s necessary to dispel with the notion that there was anything neutral in the scheme of net neutrality. A truly neutral market would not look like the FCC regulating the internet like a utility. Think about it — if we left control of the internet to a government bureaucracy, would we be at all surprised when regulators, lobbyists and special interests established dictates to protect entrenched players at the expense of innovation and new competition?

A graphic shared by California Congressman Ro Khanna in the debate over net neutrality illustrated the sheer lunacy of letting federal bureaucrats control the internet. Ironically, Khanna was using his graphic to argue in favor of continuing net neutrality. In tweeting this piece showing the differing views, one of California’s finest actually made the case for getting rid of this onerous policy.

According to the left, government should be able to dictate that companies can’t innovate and unbundle services to offer consumers what they need. Bureaucrats would rather have government set the “essential tech benefits” in the same way they set essential health benefits for Obamacare. The consequences of that decision — health premiums out of control and spiraling costs — are still being felt by working families all across the U.S. Now, like Einstein once relayed in defining insanity, they’re simply repeating the same mistake and hoping for a different result.

From its inception in the late 1970s-early 1980s until 2015, the internet went from a little-known resource for sharing military data to the single biggest technological innovation in human history. Its expansion fueled human connection and spawned more wealth and growth than anything we have ever seen. Consider how this history would have been different had the heavy hand of government been controlling the levers from the get-go.

A recent analysis conducted by the American Enterprise Institute should put this issue to bed once and for all. Examining the price trends of a basket of selected consumer goods and services from 1996-2016 using data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the prices of cell service, software and televisions (subject to very little government regulation of pricing) all saw downward trends in the double digits. Contrast this to college tuition and health care, which have all seen triple-digit price inflation over the same period as government expanded its control over prices.

We all want a free and neutral playing field for internet services. By going back to the ancient history of 2015, the FCC has made the case we know to be true — that free markets are far better equipped to ensure greater access, promote new innovation and keep up with the speed of change in technology. Internet freedom has worked for the past 20 years; we should breathe a sigh of relief that D.C.’s hands are out of it for the next 20 years. There’s nothing neutral about net neutrality.

Sal Nuzzo serves as the vice president of policy and director of the Center for Economic Prosperity at The James Madison Institute.