A new survey of U.S. voters by the Rasmussen Poll finds strong reluctance to regulate the Internet in the same way done for television and radio. Still, 21 percent of likely U.S. voters want the Federal Communications Commission to regulate the Internet as it does radio and television. Some 54 percent are opposed to such regulation, and 25 percent are not sure. Read more here:
As with nearly everything related to "network neutrality," it is hard to be certain that the questioner and the respondent actually agree on what it is that they are talking about. "Should the Federal Communications Commission regulate the Internet like it does radio and television?" is a valid question, but some of us might argue it doesn't capture narrowly enough the substance of the network neutrality debate, which has more to do with regulating features of the access service and management of those access facilities -- not the "Internet" in a larger sense.
The larger issue is that it is hard to ask a member of the general voting public much of anything about network neutrality in a way that does not oversimplify the question or frame the question in ways that shape the answers.
If one asked whether "you would like to have the option to buy an Internet access service that provided better video or voice quality?" one might get one set of answers. If voters were asked whether ISPs should be able to create video or voice services of their own that work better than all other competitors," you would likely get different responses.
You can read the actual questions here.
Still, on other issues that likely are clearer than the specific question about Internet regulation, American voters believe free market competition will protect Internet users more than government regulation and fear that regulation will be used to push a political agenda, Rasmussen said.
The survey also shows Republicans and unaffiliated voters overwhelmingly oppose FCC (News - Alert) "regulation of the Internet" while Democrats are more evenly divided. Those who use the Internet most are most opposed to FCC regulations.
By a 52 percent to 27 percent margin, voters believe that more free market competition is better than more regulation for protecting Internet users. Republicans and unaffiliated voters overwhelmingly share this view, but a plurality of Democrats (46 percent) think more regulation is the better approach.
Some 56 percent of voters believe that the FCC would use its regulatory authority to promote a political agenda. Some 28 percent believe the commission would regulate in an unbiased manner.
The survey of 1,000 Likely Voters nationwide was conducted on Dec. 23, 2010 by Rasmussen Reports.
"As you would expect, there is a huge gap between the political class and mainstream voters on this topic," Rasmussen says. "Most mainstream voters see free market competition as the best way to protect Internet users, but most in the political class prefer more regulation."
About 78 percent of respondents who are political insiders believe the regulations would be handled in an unbiased manner, while 72 percent of mainstream voters believe they would be used to promote a political agenda.
Just 20 percent of votes seem to be following news of the net neutrality regulations "very closely." Another 35 percent say they’re following it "somewhat closely."
In related polls, 59 percent of voters say the government's most important role is to protect their individual rights. Nearly half (48 percent) of American Adults see the government today as a threat to individual rights rather than a protector of those rights.
Separate polls also suggest that large percentages of TV viewers think inappropriate content on television is a problem big enough to require regulator action.
Gary Kim (News - Alert) is a contributing editor for TMCnet. To read more of Gary’s articles, please visit his columnist page.
Edited by Tammy Wolf