Opinion

The Obama Administration’s Chilling War On The Internet Reaches Into Kentucky

Drew Johnson National Director, Protect Internet Freedom

The Bluegrass State is already reeling from the Obama administration’s war on coal. Now the people of the Commonwealth are preparing to feel the sting of ObamaNet, the administration’s attempt to seize control of the Internet.

Just a President Obama used the Environmental Protection Agency as a means to shutter most coal-fired power plants in the U.S. – and devastate Kentucky’s coal industry – he is now using the Federal Communications Commission to sneak the Internet under the thumb of federal regulators.

That’s why Tom Wheeler, the chairman of the Federal Communication Commission (FCC), is attending the Shaping Our Appalachian Region initiative (SOAR) Summit in Pikeville, Kentucky, on Monday.

When Wheeler isn’t inventing special rules for some of the Obama Administration’s largest campaign donors – like Google and Facebook – or suffocating Internet Service Providers with socialist-style price controls, the FCC chairman is pushing state and municipal governments to get in the Internet business.

Oftentimes, the federal government even seduces state and local leaders to build government-owned Internet schemes with federal tax dollars.

Wheeler will pitch SOAR attendees his vision for Kentucky’s communist-flavored government-owned Internet business and advocate pouring additional resources into the floundering KentuckyWired program.

KentuckyWired is a 3,400-mile fiber optic cable infrastructure aimed at bringing broadband service to the doorsteps of communities that don’t have it. The program was sold as a necessity by former Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear, who complained that too few Kentuckians had access to the web and maligned the Bluegrass State for placing towards the bottom in rankings of national Internet download speeds.

But the boondoggle was built on a set of falsehoods and fabrications.

In reality, 93 percent of Kentuckians already have access to wireline broadband service, and more than 99 percent can get online via wireless Internet providers. Contrary to Beshear’s claims, pretty much every person in the state can already get online if they want – and KentuckyWired won’t even be completed for more than a year.

To make matters worse for the costly taxpayer-funded venture, KentuckyWired may not be able to keep up with changing Internet technology, possibly leaving Kentuckians with nothing but a bunch of expensive, antiquated cables to show for their investment in a few years.

And what a costly investment it is.

The entire project, which began construction last year, is expected to cost taxpayers $350 million – or about $180 for every family in Kentucky – when it’s complete. To make matters worse, budget officials in Frankfort calculate the state will annually fall $11 million short of making the bond payments for KentuckyWired, which may force tax increases on the state’s residents.

As a result of the dopey decision to get the government in the Internet business, taxpayers are footing the bill for project that the state doesn’t need, may soon become obsolete and is hemorrhaging money before it’s even complete.

Not that Wheeler seems to care.

The FCC chairman has been a tireless defender of failed government Internet programs. Two of Wheeler’s favorites are a municipal broadband scheme in Chattanooga, Tennessee, that cost taxpayers $552 million and failed to live up to the promise of luring new industry to the city, and a half-billion boondoggle in Utah that currently has only 8,240 users.

Ultimately, projects like Kentucky Wired, and the programs in Chattanooga and Utah, use tax dollars to allow government to compete with private providers. This scary assault on American free market values mean that more and more customers will have to go through the government, not a trusted private company, to receive their Internet.

This chilling reality appears to be the last step in ObamaNet, which already empowered the government to track what Americans do on the web, limited innovation by Internet providers, created price controls on the Internet and increased the cost for the average American to get online.

Just as Obama’s war on coal left Americans paying more for energy, while limiting options for consumers and giving the government greater control of energy production in the United States, ObamaNet will allow government bureaucrats to dictate what Internet Service Providers Americans can use, which websites we’re allowed to visit and what we’re allowed to say online.

If President Obama and Chairman Wheeler have their way, they will stifle the greatest outlet for freedom and innovation the world has ever known – and they will use projects like KentuckyWired to do it.

Drew Johnson is the national director for Protect Internet Freedom, a grassroots nonprofit organization of 1.6 million supporters dedicated to defending a truly free and open Internet.