Fixing the Internet

Tom Giovanetti  ·  Mar 01, 2015

Our government leaders in Washington have certainly racked up an impressive string of successes. At last the Middle East is stabilized, and the threat of terrorism has been extinguished. The economy is growing robustly, foreign companies are reincorporating in the United States to take advantage of our more hospitable tax and regulatory structures, and everyone who is able to work has a wide choice of rewarding employment options. The national savings rate is up, the budget is balanced, and we’ve actually begun to pay down the national debt.

Now Washington is turning its attention to one of our few remaining problems: solving the puzzle of why the Internet has been such a massive disappointment.

By now it’s obvious that the Internet simply hasn’t lived up to its potential. The Internet was supposed to create new opportunities for Americans to build communities with one another and, indeed, with the world. It was going to give us access to formerly inaccessible sources of information and knowledge and facilitate collaboration among scientists, researchers, and creators.

We were teased with the idea that online educational options would develop, and that it would be possible to take classes and perhaps even earn a college degree remotely over the Internet. We were told that the Internet could become a significant engine of commerce, with businesses selling their products on it, and consumers actually being able to do their Christmas shopping from the comfort of their living room.

We were even told that the Internet would become available on a variety of convenient portable devices—that we would become untethered from our desks and could access information, news, and commerce as we walked down the street, or even as we flew across the country.

How hollow those promises sound today!

Fortunately, federal officials are finally coming to grips with our Internet problem, and promising to take action. They have deduced from the Internet’s many failures that the problem derives from several factors:

  • Not enough federal regulation.
  • Not enough government ownership of broadband.
  • Not enough Internet taxation.
  • Not enough United Nations governance.
  • Not enough government surveillance.

So the current administration is taking aggressive action on all these fronts. The Federal Communications Commission is going to undo clearly mistaken Clinton administration policy and begin regulating the Internet under the FCC’s massive Title II regulatory authority, which has fallen into disuse since the days of analog telecom monopoly. Fortunately, these old regulations can be dusted off and repurposed, giving a number of federal bureaucrats useful work administering reporting requirements, price controls, and tariff authority.

As a side benefit, this reclassification will give the federal government authority to apply many new taxes and fees to Internet service. You know all those taxes and fees you don’t understand on your phone bill? It’s reassuring to know that they will now turn up on your Internet bill as well.

The administration is also promising to exert its authority to declare null and void the laws of 19 states that regulate the ability of cities to use taxpayer dollars to build broadband networks and thus compete with the evil, greedy private sector. All of us who want a vibrant, functional Internet should cheer the visionary assertion that old, outdated constitutional distinctions between federal and state authority are at least partly to blame for the failure of the Internet.

It’s a global village, of course, and so another factor behind the failure of the Internet is undoubtedly lack of United Nations governance over its core functions. The good news is that the administration is taking action there as well, cleverly turning over the Internet’s core functions to the corrupt and unaccountable ICANN, which in a short time and after a scandal or two should lead to direct U.N. governance through its International Telecommunication Union.

Finally, all signs point to ever-growing federal surveillance of Internet traffic. It’s impossible, of course, for American citizens to have the necessary trust and confidence to adopt the Internet as a major feature of their lives without the assurance that the federal government will be helpfully monitoring all our e-mail, Internet browsing, geolocation, and credit card transactions in order to keep the Internet safe, especially for the children.

Because, after all, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it if the government isn’t running it, it’s broken.

Editor’s Note: In case you haven’t guessed, this article is satire!

Tom Giovanetti really is the president of the Institute for Policy Innovation, an independent, nonprofit public-policy organization based in Dallas.