Friends of the Earth has a reputation of being a principled, if misguided, single-issue group. Yet in its latest email action alert, it reveals it is less interested in guarding the environment than in promoting leftist ideology. Why else would an environmental group take a stand on, of all things, net neutrality?
FoE is upset that Exxon could take over the internet, it seems (this text is from its email alert):
You may wonder why you're getting an email about Internet fairness from an environmental group. There's a simple reason: large polluting corporations like Exxon, Duke Energy and BP have virtually unlimited resources they can spend on lobbying, TV ads, and — thanks to the abhorrent Citizens United Supreme Court decision — political campaigns.
The Internet is one of the few arenas in which public interest advocates like Friends of the Earth are on equal footing with, say, Massey Coal. The Internet makes it possible for us to inform you about the latest environmental news, and about what Washington is — or isn't — doing in response. The Internet is also a crucial organizing tool. It provides you with opportunities to take action, and connects you with others who share your commitment to people and the planet.
Yes indeed, the internet is a great organizing tool. It’s also private property. Just as a passenger railroad has the right to charge different passengers different fares for different classes of treatment, and the right to eject passengers who are behaving badly, so internet infrastructure providers should have the same rights to differentiate between customers. Next time you travel to DC by train for a protest, try sitting in first class and claim you have a right to be on an equal footing with the business travelers, and see how far you get.
The fact is that net neutrality rules are quite simply damaging to the future development of the internet. The infrastructure needs competing business models, rather than a one-size-fits-all approach imposed by political fiat. The internet is already suffering because vast chunks of radio spectrum are already tied up because of legacy regulations, when they could be being used to expand internet delivery options. If Friends of the Earth wants a better organizing tool, they should want a better internet, which is one that is less regulated by a bunch of guys in DC who think the internet is a “series of tubes.”
Yet that reasoning won’t matter to Friends of the Earth. Throughout its existence, the organization has proved itself hostile to private property and the role that can play in conservation, as I detailed in my book The Really Inconvenient Truths. It should come as no surprise that the organization should therefore be hostile to private property rights in another sphere. FoE’s interest in net neutrality should forever banish the idea that it is dedicated only to improving the environment, because it has just revealed that it is just another liberal advocacy group.
Iain Murray is a Vice President at the Competitive Enterprise Institute (which is proud to be a free market advocacy group)