My teenage daughters were in a panic. "Why is Trump trying to ruin the internet?" one asked. "My favorite websites will be shut down!" her sister added.
A few days ago, they watched the panicked reactions of their favorite YouTube "stars" and other third-tier celebs to FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai's proposal to end the net neutrality rules created two years ago.
Net neutrality is one of those big government ideas that sounds great in theory but creates new problems in execution.
The net neutrality concept is that all traffic on the internet should be treated equally. Your broadband provider can't block certain websites or slow down the applications you use. They also shouldn't create "fast lanes" that force high-bandwidth services like Netflix or Hulu to pay an extra fee to deliver their content more quickly than the other guys.
To this end, the Obama administration reclassified broadband as a telecommunications service and subjected the industry to creaky regulations written back in 1934 to rein in Ma Bell. This being government, it took them 400 pages of turgid legalese to accomplish this.
Following decades of exploding internet growth, the government interjected itself with a barrage of new rules to stop an imaginary threat. As Commissioner Pai put it, net neutrality “is a solution that won't work to a problem that simply doesn't exist."
Now he wants the government to cut the red tape and let the internet thrive as it did before the 2015 rules were enacted.
Being the Trump era, celebrities jumped on Twitter to react with, what else, outrage. “We will never go back to a free internet,” warned Kumail Nanjiani of “Silicon Valley” (the HBO show, not the tech capital).
“Net Neutrality means Trump can change the internet!” Cher shrieked.
“Taking away #NetNeutrality is the Authoritarian dream,” actor Mark Ruffalo intoned.
If Trump is some kind of digital fascist, he sure has a funny way of going about it.
His FCC commissioner is trying to remove government from the internet, returning it to those dark, authoritarian days of 30 months ago. You know, when pretty much every website, app and online service we use were created.
Bizarrely, these net neutrality alarmists are demanding that Trump maintain control of the internet, planting his administration firmly between citizens and whatever content they want to view or create.
Even if Democrats were running the show in D.C., how could federal meddling improve the internet? Do they want the web run by the bureaucrats who spent $2 billion to build a health-care website that didn't work? Do they want our privacy assured by those behind the NSA?
Nevertheless, progressives insist that President Trump regulate the internet in the name of free speech. Perhaps he can do this between his tweets bashing the press.
If the FCC approves this new proposal, the worst of federal meddling online will be retired. Instead, the commission will simply require internet service providers to be transparent about their service offerings. That way, tech innovators will have the information they need and consumers will know which plan works best for them.
In other words, web users and creators will be back in control of the internet instead of lawyers and bureaucrats. Just as they were for all but the last couple years.
To ensure transparency, Pai made all of his proposals public before the Dec. 14 vote. A big departure from the Obama administration’s methods, which kept its net neutrality rules secret until after they were approved.
In the time before the FCC’s heavy-handed intervention, we saw the creation of Amazon, Google and Twitter. If Washington removes these unnecessary regulations as expected, we’ll see the internet continue to blossom.
And my daughters will get to watch their favorite YouTube celebrities complain about net neutrality for years to come.