Is there anyone who is surprised that the FCC has voted in favor of net neutrality, and that the vote followed party lines? I doubt it. The general trend has been for greater and greater control by agencies in matters that may seem innocuous, technical, and/or unimportant at the time but can have wide-reaching effects, especially when they are followed by ever-expanding restrictions.

The net neutrality rules don’t sound so bad. And maybe they’ll stay that way. But I wouldn’t bet a dime on it.

Here’s the “neutrality” part:

The Federal Communications Commission today voted to enforce net neutrality rules that prevent Internet providers—including cellular carriers—from blocking or throttling traffic or giving priority to Web services in exchange for payment.

Trouble is that it gets the camel’s nose in the tent (although actually, I suppose the camel’s nose was already in the tent):

The most controversial part of the FCC’s decision reclassifies fixed and mobile broadband as a telecommunications service, with providers to be regulated as common carriers under Title II of the Communications Act. This brings Internet service under the same type of regulatory regime faced by wireline telephone service and mobile voice, though the FCC is forbearing from stricter utility-style rules that it could also apply under Title II.

Chairman Wheeler tut-tuts concerns:

This proposal has been described by one opponent as, quote, a secret plan to regulate the Internet. Nonsense. This is no more a plan to regulate the Internet than the First Amendment is a plan to regulate free speech. They both stand for the same concepts: openness, expression, and an absence of gate keepers telling people what they can do, where they can go, and what they can think.

So, which is it folks? Hint: Obama and the Democrats are for it, and Republicans and Libertarians seem to trend against it. Therefore my guess is “a plan to regulate free speech,” step by step by step. A certain step may seem perfectly fine and even reasonable at the time. But objections to this are not, as Wheeler so elegantly puts it, “nonsense,” because a step is almost inexorably followed by another and another and another, until a point is reached that isn’t so fine at all.

[Neo-neocon is a writer with degrees in law and family therapy, who blogs at neo-neocon.]