The FCC's 'Reasonable' Internet Plan

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[Commentary] Imagine if businesses had to go to after every sale so a federal agency could pass judgment on whether the deal is "commercially reasonable."

Readers in heavily regulated industries may say they already do. But it's not the way to prosperity and it's not the model that has allowed the Internet to become an engine of the US economy. Yet new Chairman Tom Wheeler previewed the Federal Communication Commission's latest attempt to enforce "net neutrality" rules on Internet service providers. These are the companies like AT&T and Comcast that run wires into homes and businesses to deliver Internet connections.

A long-standing dream among liberal activists is to prevent these firms from charging higher prices to heavy consumers of Internet bandwidth. The most zealous promoters of this idea don't even believe that capacity hogs like Netflix or Google's YouTube should pay extra for all the video they send over digital communications networks (though the companies themselves have more nuanced positions). The net-neuts also want new rules preventing networks from blocking or discriminating against websites -- say, by slowing down connections to websites that aren't affiliated with the network.

Although Congress has never appointed the FCC to run the Internet, Chairman Wheeler will now try a third time to sneak this idea past the judiciary and fulfill a 2008 campaign promise from President Obama. Chairman Wheeler will likely present his proposal, which he briefly described in a blog post, as a compromise between free markets and the heavy-handed regulation that the FCC has always applied to the traditional telephone system. And our liberal friends are already howling that to allow any variable pricing will relegate average customers to an endless Internet traffic jam while well-heeled companies take the fast lane on a private cyber toll road.

The FCC's 'Reasonable' Internet Plan