The Washington Times editorial board is taking a stand for freedom, opposing newly enacted legislation that prevents broadcasters from airing TV ads that are excessively loud. "Nobody likes overly loud television commercials," the Times observed in a December 14 editorial, but the "government is taking a step too far into the nation's living rooms." According to the conservative newspaper, government action to ameliorate this minor irritant could set us down the slippery slope towards total government control of the internet.
What's most troubling is that Congress and the FCC are inviting future intrusion. A growing number of Americans have embraced online streaming video services such as Netflix, YouTube and Hulu, which are beyond Uncle Sam's regulatory grasp -- for now. A public accustomed to having the government tone down ads might not think twice about having the feds step in and start regulating the Internet.
The public "might not" care. Then again, they might. There's no explanation for how we get from "keep the TV volume reasonable" to "regulating the internet." But then, the whole point of a leap of logic is to avoid showing your work.
What's genuinely puzzling about this scenario is that, according to the Washington Times, the government already is regulating the internet. In a December 27, 2010, editorial headlined "Obama's regulatory power grab; FCC Internet ruling offers a taste of things to come," the Times issued dire warnings about the FCC's Open Internet Order, which establishes net neutrality principles for the United States. According to the Times: "Innovation has thrived online precisely because Uncle Sam has not yet stepped in with his usual mix of crushing taxation and arbitrary rules. That all changes with the FCC's latest action. [FCC chairmain Julius] Genachowski is asserting control over the Internet without any legal authority for his actions."
The truth is that the FCC rules are mainly prophylactic and are intended to keep companies from Verizon from doing crazy things like, for example, asserting editorial control over online content. They went into effect over a year ago and since then the internet has quite noticeably not been crushed under taxation or arbitrary rules, and innovation continues apace. In fact, the U.S. just recently led a successful international push to block a proposed treaty seeking to legitimize state controls over telephone and internet communications.
So the destruction of the internet through oppressive regulation didn't happen, even though the Washington Times said it would, but now it might happen again (or for the first time), all because the government is making broadcasters moderate the volume of TV ads. So goes the chaotic and confusing fight for freedom.