If you liked “Ma Bell,” you’ll love President Obama’s proposal to make the Internet an innovation-stifling, competition-averse, self-serving public utility.
Mr. Obama wants the FCC to treat Internet service like water and electricity service under the Communications Act of 1934 to enforce “net neutrality,” prohibiting Internet service providers from slowing content and charging content providers for online “fast lanes.” But “public utilities don’t serve the public; they serve themselves,” notes Andy Kessler, who worked for AT&T in the early 1980s when its Ma Bell utility days were numbered, writing in The Wall Street Journal.
Mr. Kessler says Ma Bell delayed rolling out both touch-tone dialing and the transistors its own Bell Labs invented in 1947; it developed cellular calling in 1946 but “let the innovation wither.” He sees competition as bringing true network neutrality, noting how long-distance rates fell once AT&T had MCI and Sprint as rivals, Skype forced cheaper international calls and today’s AT&T offered gigabit Internet service in Austin, Texas, “as soon as Google Fiber showed up.” Kessler also notes how utility regulation lags behind technology.
“‘Net Neutrality’ is ObamaCare for the Internet; the Internet should not operate at the speed of government,” says Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas. The Internet must remain a freewheeling, innovative economic driver — not become an FCC-hobbled 21st-century Ma Bell.