Oct 10, 2018

When it Comes to the Internet, Lawmakers Should Keep Backing Innovation Over Regulation

Post by Freedom Partners

The internet is somewhat of an enigma, growing and changing each day. It developed rapidly, from the first workable prototype in the late 1960s to what it is now. One of the main reasons the internet has been able to develop so quickly is because the government sided with innovation and not overregulation.

The Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (ARPANET) was the first workable prototype of today’s internet. It was funded by the Department of Defense, but contributions by civilian scientists and engineers thrust the technology forward quickly — by 1990 we had the World Wide Web.

Since then, the internet has not stopped advancing. It’s getting faster, smarter, more capable. But that progress is now being threatened by lawmakers in Washington who think government should have a bigger say in how the internet operates.

Earlier this year, Rep. Nancy Pelosi asked fellow Californian Rep. Ro Khanna to develop a “Bill of Rights for the internet,” so to speak. The 10 principles cover areas from competition-squashing net neutrality to privacy. And last week, Rep. Pelosi suggested during an interview the creation of a new agency to manage the impact of growing technology — an act that would open the door to heavy-handed government regulation.

But she is not the first person in Washington to suggest overregulating the internet.

Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia proposed social media regulations in September that would pose a huge threat to free speech rights. Later that month, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions met with more than a dozen representatives from state attorney general offices to discuss social media concerns with the looming possibility of antitrust investigations into big-tech platforms. And the battle over net neutrality, which preceded the Trump administration, continues.

Privacy concerns are valid and will become more important as technology gets smarter. In a society of mutual benefit that rewards openness, both sides of a transaction should be aware of what they’re giving up and what they are getting in return. Otherwise, one side can exploit the other unfairly.

But if responses to those concerns burden and stifle innovators, everyone will be at a disadvantage.

America became — and remains — a powerhouse in the world of technology in part because of the light regulatory approach that has been used thus far. To take the opposite approach is to threaten everything scientists and engineers have done over the last half-century, and everything consumers could potentially benefit from in the future.

Overregulation is a way for the government to pick winners and losers. Innovation is only fully unleashed when there’s an even playing field.

Government should not erect barriers to mutual benefit. Instead, it should create an environment that fosters innovation and the free exchange of ideas, goods and services. Lawmakers must remember not to sacrifice innovation for consumer protection when it’s possible to have both.