McSlarrow: Net neutrality would hinder, not help, free speech

by Kim Hart
The Hill

Net neutrality supporters say the government has to ensure Internet service providers can’t impede access to content on the Web. That would be a violation of consumers’ First Amendment rights.

Not so, says Kyle McSlarrow, president of the National Cable and Telecommunications Association. In fact, he says that argument has turned First Amendment principals “upside down.”

“By its plain terms and history, the First Amendment is a limitation on government power, not an empowerment of government,” said McSlarrow while speaking at a luncheon held today by the Media Institute. “Making these arguments is, ironically, almost proof that First Amendment rights are being implicated…let’s not forget that the First Amendment is framed as a shield for citizens, not a sword for government.”

He reiterated that all Internet service providers say they have no desire to block customers from reaching lawful content and applications. Doing so would be competitive suicide. If customers found one provider was hindering their access to content they want, they will simply go to another provider. He said imposing net neutrality regulations could actually infringe First Amendment rights by not allowing Internet operators to provide “managed” or premium services to consumers.

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