Congress wants to own our devices

Mark Pryor (D-Ark) has decided that Congress and the Federal government should decide what we can and cannot see on our TVs, cellphones, and portable media devices. Pryor is sponsoring a bill that would require the FCC to develop a "super V-chip" that would have to be installed in every device that connects to any third party network, including the network.

There are so many things wrong with this that it is hard to know where to start. First, adding this sort of flawed technology to every single electronic device would raise the cost of everything. And remember that we are rapidly moving towards a time when every single electronic device we own (radios, phones, TVs, computers, music players, etc. etc. etc.) all have some kind of connection to networks. The cost of implementing this would be staggering, and we would get to pay for this with higher prices.

It also beggars belief that we would want FCC bureaucrats in Washington D.C. to decide what we can and cannot look at. Pryor is wrapping this in the usual "it's for the children" bait and switch language, but it would give the Federal government total control over the media. The V-chip was a dumb idea from the start, but if you squinted hard, you could dimly see some kernel of justification for it, since in 1996 a lot of us still got TV over the airwaves, which was still heavily regulated by the FCC. With all the alternative ways to get news, information, and entertainment today, the FCC is hardly needed to "protect" us.

Pornography is a scourge, but as more and more communities move toward an open services model for delivering media, the open market will take care of this problem quite neatly. In open services networks, some Internet access providers will be able to cheaply and easily sell "family friendly" Internet access with all sorts of parental controls built in. It will be quicker, cheaper, and easier than any government-mandated solution, and it will work better. That's the right way to do it.

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