Supporters of Big Tech impunity pulled a quick one on us. They say that as conservatives and libertarians, we are against government interference with private businesses, so we should leave Big Tech alone. This argument is disingenuous. As conservatives and libertarians, we tend to be against laws, regulations, and government policies that interfere with private businesses. But the existing laws, regulations, and policies that restrain, constrain, endanger, and otherwise interfere with private businesses must be enforced on Big Tech just as they are enforced on other businesses. If government tells a small bakery owner that he cannot select customers, the government must tell the same to Google, Facebook, and Twitter, just billions of times stronger.
We also support enforcement of valid contracts (rather than fictitious ones, like social media Terms of Service), and prosecution of corporations for fraud and deceptive advertising. This said, Big Tech (Google, Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft, Netflix) are not real private corporations, but state actors, illegal monopolies, and illegal agents of foreign governments.
(end of the 2019-07-17 update)
Big Tech’s ability to silence users was granted them by Obama’s FCC under the guise of “protecting” internet users, under net neutrality, a slogan that became popular in 2005. Big Tech corporations silence us not on their private property, but on ours – in our homes and offices, wherever we attempt to communicate over the internet. The internet is not their property. The internet infrastructure was built and is owned by private companies like AT&T, and we pay hefty ISP fees for its use.
The Obama administration made two major net neutrality regulations, which violated citizens’ First Amendment rights and centralized power in the hands of friendly GFTM. I will call these two regulations Obamanet I (2010) and Obamanet II (2015) to correspond to Title I and Title II of the Communications Act of 1934, amended in 1996.
Obamanet II established that when a person contracts with an ISP, he is not allowed to choose the content or services for which he is willing to pay. He is forced to accept and pay for ALL services and ALL content providers’ access to him and his household. He must pay the traffic delivery costs of Netflix, Google, Facebook (together consuming more than two thirds of the available bandwidth), Pornhub, CNN, Daesh (ISIS) and all other content providers, who are granted unobstructed access to all internet users.
In 2010, Obamanet I expanded the regulatory authority of the Federal Communications Commission. They expanded the term ISPs to mean “any person engaged in the provision of broadband Internet access service”. The difference is akin to the difference between paper and paper products, a leap from regulating paper manufacturing to regulating newspapers and books.
Consequently, Obama’s FCC used this self-granted authority to push cable companies further to the left. When the court overturned this FCC ruling four years later, the Obama administration passed even stricter rules, bringing the home and small office internet access under Title II or Obamanet II. This prohibited “any person engaged in the provision of broadband Internet access service … to interfere with … edge providers’ ability to make lawful content, applications, services, or devices available to end users.” Thus, Obamanet II expanded the term broadband internet access to include any internet access.
Publishing Then & Now
The centuries old publishing business model was that the publisher pays its costs to produce a book or newspaper, including paper, printing, and delivery, and then receives payment from the consumer.
The Obama administration has banned this business model on the Internet. Under Obamanet, all publishers are subsidized by all internet users through our ISP bills. It is a hidden tax, effectively redistributing wealth from ordinary folks to Netflix, Google, Facebook, Amazon, Twitter, porn peddlers, and the fake news. Most of $60B, paid annually by consumers of fixed broadband ISPs alone, are re-distributed this way. This is similar to the government supported journalism, practiced in the Soviet Union and proposed by the Free Press Marxist founder Robert McChesney in the US, but on a larger scale than his admittedly impossible demand of $30B. (The Free Press is named like Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.)
Traditionally, newspapers relied on their paying subscribers and relationships with them, even when receiving most revenues from advertising. Combined with the First Amendment, these subscription fees and the relationships with the readers protected the publishers from censorship and improper pressure. If Color of Change or SPLC wanted to punish a traditional newspaper, the attempt would have backfired. The paper would tell the readers its side of the story, causing most readers to continue their subscriptions and recommend the newspaper to friends & family. Any advertisers that quit would be quickly replaced by others, attracted by the newspaper’s loyal audience. On the other hand, if such a traditional newspaper betrayed the trust of their readers by publishing fake news or hiding stories that are relevant to its audience, the readers would cancel their subscriptions, and the paper would also lose corresponding ad revenues.
Contrary, under the Obamanet / Free Press model, users must pay typical ISP fees of $80 per month for subsidizing the whole internet. Users are therefore reluctant to pay additional subscription fees for individual sites. Ads-only model doesn’t work — ads neither provide enough revenues and nor create relationships. Publishers that are totally dependent on advertisers are easy prey for organized campaigns targeting advertisers, such as the @slpng_giants vs Breitbart campaign. The subsidized publishing model also encourages the production of large amount of low-quality content, requiring a search engine to find anything in it. This is how Google became the king. The fake news media thrive by receiving free visitors from Google and Facebook, and financial subsidies from leftist foundations and foreign governments.
Conservatives, who read websites like the American Thinker, are especially heavily hit. These websites, largely comprised of text, have extremely low bandwidth requirements, hundreds of times lower than YouTube, CNN, or MSNBC. That would be thousands of times lower if ads were replaced by traditional subscription fees. More than 90% of a typical conservative family’s ISP fees go to subsidize Google, Netflix, porn, and fake news.
Silicon Valley, ISPs, and Fake News
Currently, many ISP markets are dominated by a few huge cable companies. The concentration of high-speed internet access in so few hands is frequently referred to as the reason for heavy handed regulation. These companies are also cartoon villains in the Obamanet Team Internet vs. Team Cable propaganda. But this propaganda is backwards. Obamanet empowered these companies to be so dominant, thus creating the problem it claims to solve. Unsurprisingly, their news and other programming also shifted to the left. The top three cable companies Comcast, Charter, and AT&T own MSNBC, NBC, and CNN. Verizon owns Yahoo, including Yahoo News, and HuffPost.
Internet access cannot become a monopoly naturally. Analog phone, electricity, cable TV, each of them requires specific infrastructure, including cables or wires. Internet connection can be made through anything that can conduct signal. That includes phone wires, TV and even electrical cable, fiber, air, and space. Obamanet prohibited differentiation between ISPs based on content or other services. Thus, ISP’s could only compete over raw bandwidth. In this competition, cable companies had a definite advantage due to the physical properties of their cable lines, and the pre-existing monopoly. There was a vibrant and growing market of internet service providers of all kinds and sizes before 2009. Obamanet has slowly killed off most of the small ISPs and emerging technologies.
Obamanet’s destructive impact on the press received so little notice because it happened during the migration of old media to the internet. In 2005, most internet users wanted internet for access, rather than content. They received the content from newspapers and cable TV. That was the year when the newspaper industry had peak revenues. Around 2007, when the migration started, there was a strong belief in an ad-driven revenue model. The NY Times even made most of its website available for free. But in 2009, the liberal media heavily promoted net neutrality and there could be no return to sanity after that.
Obamanet II passed through a bizarre procedure. FCC voted on a draft and published a press release, which was then debated in the media. The actual text, was much worse than the original press release, was finalized and published later, but received little attention from the media.
GFTM are state actors and Title II common carriers (at least for some of their services). Even if or when they act as interactive service providers, Section 230 protects acts of censorship only taken voluntarily and in good faith, as opposed to complying with the EUSSR diktat or yielding to pressure from the woke and/or seditious crowd.
Technically, Obamanet has been repealed, but lawsuits and #Resistance by the Big Tech, dark blue state governments, and the threat of the Democrat-Socialist return to power keep it alive. The consolidated lawsuit Mozilla Corp. et al v. FCC, case No. 18-1051 is currently awaiting a decision by the DC Circuit Appeals Court; see my Brief in support of Obamanet repeal.
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