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Free State: Neutrality Rules Could Be Internet Fairness Doctrine

The Free State Foundation, a Maryland-based free-market
think tank, argues that the FCC's proposed expanded and codified network
neutrality rules could be a kind of fairness doctrine for ISPs, including cable
and telco companies.

Free State's
argument came in comments filed at the FCC Thursday on the commission's
proposal to expand and codify its network neutrality rules. The deadline for
comment is today (Jan. 14).

"They compel the ISP to convey or make available
content it otherwise, for whatever reason, might choose not to convey or make available,"
the group said in its filing. It points out that the FCC in its notice
proposing the codification asks whether any First Amendment burdens might be
"outweighed by the speech-enabling benefits of an open Internet."

Network neutrality regulations, says Free State, "are reminiscent of the
Commission's Fairness Doctrine, which the agency jettisoned two decades ago in
light of the new media proliferating even then."

The doctrine, which FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski has said
is "dead," required broadcasters to provide on-air access to the
other side of issues of public importance.

More generally, said Free
State, the codified rules could "discourage
investment and job creation, stymie innovation, and harm overall consumer

Marvin Ammori, University of Nebraska law professor and advisor to net neutrality fan Free Press says he has been monitoring the free speech arguments, and says net neutrality opponents can't have it both ways.
Ammori tells B&C: "Either net neutrality is unnecessary because ISPs would not affect Internet traffic, let alone block speech, or net neutrality is 'forced speech' because it forces ISPs to carry traffic they would otherwise block or affect. Which is it? Will ISPs block citizens' speech or will they not?'"