Most Americans have no appetite for new government regulation of the Internet, according to year-end data released by the conservative-leaning polling firm Rasmussen.
Their survey of “likely voters” found that just one in five were in approval when asked if the government should regulate the Internet as it does television and radio.
“By a 52% to 27% margin, voters believe that more free market competition is better than more regulation for protecting Internet users,” the firm summarized. “Republicans and unaffiliated voters overwhelmingly share this view, but a plurality of Democrats (46%) think more regulation is the better approach.”
Additionally, 56 percent of respondents said they feared the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) would push a political agenda through its regulations.
While the remarkably small number of “Net Neutrality” supporters is striking — with just 21 percent saying they support the regulations — the poll’s question appears to skew the debate’s true nature.
The FCC, which passed so-called “Net Neutrality” regulations recently by a party-line vote of 3-2, is not treating the Internet as it does television or radio. Instead, its new rules explicitly condone the plans of major network operators, which initially opposed neutrality rules until the FCC unveiled the actual policies.
The FCC’s regulations would actually permit bandwidth rationing and the establishment of “super-tiers” where certain traffic is given priority over others. That runs contrary to the principle of “Net Neutrality,” which would require that all types of Internet traffic be treated equally.
The rules authored by FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski would require ISPs to allow their customers access to all legal online content, applications and services over hard-wired networks.
But the plan would also allow for a greater fractioning of the Internet and data rationing on mobile and wired networks, according to analysis of the policies. Major network stakeholders like Verizon and AT&T would be able to place caps on how much users can access the Internet each month, with overage charges for users who download too much information. Certain types of data traffic, like peer-to-peer file sharing, could also be banned outright.
The FCC would additionally require broadband providers to disclose their network management practices, and ISPs will be allowed to charge fees to businesses serving large quantities of data.
As a candidate for the presidency, Senator Barack Obama was adamantly in support of “Net Neutrality.” For supporters, that promise now stings of betrayal.
“The rule is so riddled with loopholes that it’s become clear that this FCC chairman crafted it with the sole purpose of winning the endorsement of AT&T and cable lobbyists, and not defending the interests of the tens of millions of Internet users,” The Nation‘s John Nichols commented.
Activists with the “Save the Internet” coalition accused the FCC of passing “Not Neutrality,” noting that the rules will not prevent telecommunications firms from dividing the Internet into slow and fast lanes.
“The chairman chose to ignore the voices of more than 2 million people who have urged Washington to support real and lasting Net Neutrality protections,” Free Press organizer Tim Karr wrote. “His rule, for the first time in history, allows discrimination over the mobile Internet, paving the way for widespread industry abuses.”
Nearly 2 billion people had access to the Internet in 2010, according to marketing research firm Miniwatts.