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Maryland’s Net Neutrality Bill

Matt Stoller over at MyDD has a post about a new Net Neutrality bill that was introduced in Maryland.

Owning state legislatures has been a secret strategy for corporate elites for years, and our focus on a Federal level and the courts has crippled us in understanding what is really possible when progressives step up on a state level. But that’s where change really happens.

The trouble with this is it ignores two simple facts – 1) Democrats – of which Matt is one – have traditionally believed in a strong central government with weaker subservient state governments and 2) Republicans (and by extension businesses) have usually operated at the state level on issues that make sense to legislate locally.

This becomes important when you start to talk about issues like Net Neutrality. Net Neutrality is like interstate commerce. If you legislate interstate commerce, you have to do it at the federal level. That was one of the lessons the US earned early on. Before there was a New Deal, and before there was a Great Society, there was the Interstate Commerce Commission and recognition that goods traveling between states needed something better than state level oversight.

Net Neutrality is an interstate issue. Introducing net neutrality legislation at the state level is a terrible idea that ignores the fact most issues regulated at the state level are regulated there because it doesn’t fundamentally matter whether there is a patchwork of laws governing them.

For instance, violent crime can be regulated at the state level because it doesn’t matter if there is a difference in sentencing from one state to another. If an armed robber gets a mandatory sentence of eight years in one state and ten years in another, that’s not going to change the way the world works.

Introducing Net Neutrality legislation on a state-by-state basis, on the other hand, would be catastrophic if he laws were upheld in the courts (which is unlikely), but more likely will serve only to clog the courts and force a Washington solution.

Since the basis of the Internet is a series of interconnected networks that move data around the country or around the world in a millisecond, having to build networks capable of keeping track of the various legal requirements would be the worst government idea since the tax code.

I don’t believe Matt has had a political awakening and has become such a radical Republican that he feels there is no place for the federal government in anything. I suspect his advancement of state level NN regs is intended to junk up the works. If every state had a different law for regulating Net Neutrality, the federal government would be forced into the equation and would have to regulate the Internet.

That’s what happened with Interstate Commerce to force the creation of the ICC. States had passed myriad laws that the Supreme Court struck down and Congress was forced to act.

I suspect the proponents of NN are pushing laws around the country to force federal action – that and to obfuscate the real issue. The real issue is Net Neutrality is a solution in search of a problem, since no example of the illicit deeds alleged by content providers has actually occurred.

(Disclaimer: While I work for the National Cable and Telecommunications Association, this post should in no way be construed as an official position of the Association. Thoughts in this space are mine and mine alone and do not reflect the views of my employer.)

Written by Michael Turk