Don't Tangle The Web With Rules Posted 12/17/2010 07:13 PM ET FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski has been accused of wanting to give "the federal government control over all aspects of the Internet." Internet: The U.N. is talking about regulating the Web. Meanwhile, Washington is moving toward regulating online news and information content. Though not unexpected, these are deeply disturbing developments. The U.S. media don't seem interested in the United Nations' attempt to invade the private sector, so word that the international body "is considering whether to set up an inter-governmental working group to harmonize global efforts by policy makers to regulate the Internet" had to come from an Australian outlet called iTnews. Nothing new here. The U.N. has been wanting to run the Web for years and is not letting a crisis â the WikiLeaks releases â go to waste. Following the Chicagoland model, it has plans to form an intergovernmental group that would "attempt to create global standards for policing the Internet." The meeting delegate from Brazil, which is pushing the proposal, told iTnews that the plan isn't to take over the Web. Which is no reassurance at all. Whenever an elected official or bureaucrat says a program won't cost much or the regulation being considered won't be a burden, history teaches us to expect the exact opposite. This big idea is coming only a few months after the Internet Governance Forum, a group that consults with the U.N., met in Vilnius, Lithuania. Its goal: to save the Internet with an international treaty that would include net neutrality. While we ponder the condition of the Internet in the clutches of the U.N. or some other inter-government group, we recall that America's own Federal Communications Commission is days away â Dec. 21 â from voting on net neutrality, a policy in which the government dictates how Internet service providers handle the traffic that flows over their infrastructure. This policy, as we've said before, would institute a dangerous system that would violate free speech and property rights. While the FCC schemes from its office just off the D.C. waterfront, anger is rising on Capitol Hill. Rep. Mike Rogers, a Republican from Michigan who is a member of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet, says FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski's net neutrality gives "the federal government control over all aspects of the Internet." Rogers complains that Tuesday's vote is poorly timed and gives "Congress and the public little time to review a regulation that will ultimately impact one-sixth of the nation's economy." Rep. Fred Upton, another Michigan Republican and the incoming chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, has written a letter to the FCC asking it "to cease and desist" in its effort to regulate the Web, which it "does not have authority" to do. "Our new majority will use rigorous oversight, hearings and legislation to fight the FCC's overt power grab," Upton's letter warned. Genachowski's plan is likely to be approved by the five-member commission, but that won't be the end of it. A group of GOP senators has sent a letter to Genachowski telling him, as Upton did, that they will work to rescind net neutrality if it becomes part of the nation's regulatory regime. Those Republican senators will likely be helped by some Democratic colleagues, in addition to the support they'll be getting from the GOP House. Few on the Hill like what Genachowski is trying to do, which is both regulate beyond government's authority â the Republican complaint â and bypass the legislative process in doing it â which neither party cares for. The Internet is in no need of supervision from the U.N. or Washington. It is an energetic, broadly accessible marketplace of ideas. Expression is wide open on the Web, and commerce thrives there. It has evolved intelligently on its own â giving a master power to oversee it or to ensure a bureaucrat's or politician's sense of fairness is not only unnecessary, it's counterproductive. As Rod Beckstrom, president and CEO of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, said in September at the Vilnius meeting that the Internet works. It lets us communicate on an unprecedented scale, and its relative lack of regulation has made "it a fertile field for innovation and competition." The best thing for the U.N. and Washington to do is just stand back and let it flow.