John Oliver Makes People Dumb,” says Gordon Crovitz in his latest Wall Street Journal column. As Crovitz notes, the hundreds of comments inspired by the HBO comedian’s call-to-arms for net neutrality have been conned into endorsing something completely different, Title II of the Communications Act, which would “turn the Internet into a regulated utility, with bureaucrats setting prices and terms under rules written for railroads in the 19th century and the telephone monopoly in the 1930s.”

Crovitz notes the 159 pages of comments TechFreedom filed with the International Center for Law & Economics (highlights here). Among other things, our comments explain that:

  • Title II won’t actually allow the FCC to ban “paid prioritization” (whatever that actually means), so this isn’t really about net neutrality;
  • Title II’s effects won’t be limited to broadband, but will cover web services too;
  • Far from promoting competition, Title II would protect cable and telcos from competition; and
  • The FCC can’t simply edit down Title II’s most outdated regulations to craft a “Title II lite” that restores the bipartisan consensus against heavily regulating the Internet

Title II proponents don’t seem to care about the details of how Title II would actually work. As Crovitz concludes, in the real world, 

Bureaucrats, not markets, would decide “just and reasonable” prices and terms for Internet access, as they did for railroads and Ma Bell. Today’s permissionless Internet would come to an end, and business and technology innovations would require prior approval from regulators.

Converting the Internet into a utility would mean years of litigation and regulatory uncertainty, reducing investment in broadband. New entrants such as Google Fiber would lose the incentive to challenge the cable-and-telephone duopoly. Mr. Oliver’s viewers won’t be laughing anymore.

Monday is the deadline for FCC comments, so please join us, the NAACP, the nation’s largest telecom union, and a broad array of think tanks, civil society groups, academics and engaged citizens in opposing Title II. Visit DontBreakThe.Net.

If you don’t have a WSJ but want to read the full column, just click on the top Google result here.