Is the Internet a Post Road?

Article 1 Section 8 of the Constitution requires the government to define, create, maintain and control the primary route of public communication within the nation. Does that now pertain to the internet? Should the internet be a public utility?

I do not agree that Article 1 does what you say it does. I don’t think it requires much of anything; it says the government is allowed to do certain things. And I think you’ve reinterpreted the actual text significantly enough to change the meaning. I don’t think Section 8 even uses any of the words you used in talking about the power you’re talking about, does it?

Assuming that did do what you said it did, then I would agree that should apply to the internet.

Agree with Jimmy_Chitwood, it says no such thing.

“The Congress shall have the Power […] To establish Post Offices and post Roads;”

It is a good blueprint for an amendment allowing Congress to create a national telephone or internet system.


I agree. It is not required but allowed. I stand corrected.

So, since the government chose to do so (define and control paths for distribution of mail and news papers) the question still stands. Is the internet a post road? Should it be a public utility?

No, and no. Even at the time, there were numerous ways of communicating that did not involve the post office. Although other governments did decide to run some innovations in these matters - most European countries took over the telegraph, radio, and television to various degrees - the U.S. never expanded its monopoly. To the contrary, it always allowed private companies to compete with the Post Office in certain procedures.

There is no precedent for Congress to take over the internet. That’s fortunate: it can’t possibly be a good thing. Look at the history of suppression of ideas that accompanied the Post Office from the beginning.

I think that no, it’s not a post road, and it should… sorta be a public utility? I can envision you meaning something by public utility that I would agree with, and I can imagine a meaning that I would not agree with. I think it would be a very good idea for there to be a publicly funded electronic communication network that is available to everyone. But I don’t think the actual internet that already exists should be brought under the full regulatory authority of the government on the argument that it is a public utility.

So I guess, long story short, what I would want to know is, a public utility in what sense?

The Founders wanted to facilitate the distribution of newspapers as well as private mail. It seems the intent was general communication. Radio, telegraph et al were means that came about later so the focus of the Founders was on written communication.

The internet of everything is rapidly filling all of the functions of the post road. The post road advanced communication without eliminating competition. What is its’ Constitutional equivalent in the era of the internet?

In Finland the telecom networks are built and maintained privately. The only thing that governement has specified are that every citizen should have access. Not free by the way but they should have possibility buy it where ever they live in Finland.

It’s the same principle that governs postal services. Everyone should have acces to those. Both as sender and receiver. That used to be UPU’s regulation but I’m not sure if it is anymore. At least in Finland it’s in the law.

The internet is not a road.

It’s a series of tubes.

I disagree with this method of Constitutional interpretation. When you have a general ideal like free speech or unreasonable search and seizure, then those things shift with the times. They are written to be timeless.

When it says something specific like a “post road” then it means post road. If you extrapolate from that, judges can create all kinds of mischief.

Certainly true. But, the mischief created by an internet post road is far less than that created by corporations as people and money as speech.

And, it’s less of a stretch.

Which ideas did the Post Office suppress?

Pornography (so widely defined as to make it illegal to mail birth control information). Items promoting Communism. Whatever you think of these things, it is not the PO’s job to control them.

Anthony Comstock

The terms “comstockery” and “comstockism” refer to his extensive campaign to censor materials that he considered obscene, namely anything even remotely discussing sex publicly, including birth control advertised or sent by mail. He used his position in the Postal Service and the NYSSV (in association with New York police) to make numerous arrests for obscenity and gambling.

This led to the Comstock Act of 1873. Court battles over “obscene” materials sent through the mail continued until the 1970s.

In addition, politically “subversive” materials, like those about socialism or communism, were barred from the mail regularly, with the definition greatly expanded during wartime.

It’s only in the last 50 or so years that you could send anything that remotely upset the government or your grandmother’s morals through the mail. That’s why it’s such a bad idea.

Ignorance fought. Thank you.

Does the Second Amendment only apply to the right to keep a musket? Does the freedom of press guaranteed by the First Amendment not apply to television news? Was Congress only granted the power to form a navy if it used wooden sailing ships?

Technology changes. But the core principles still apply to the new technology.

Slave states prohibited the mailing of abolitionist material in the years before the civil war.

But the constitution says “arms;” a word that describes a category of things which includes muskets but not only muskets. And it says “freedom of the press,” a figurative description of a category of things which now includes television news. And “Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces,” which describes a category of forces that includes wooden sailing ships but not only that. If you said “naval forces” to someone, they would think you meant lots of things, not just wooden ships.

On the contrary, it said “post offices and post roads,” which is a category of things that includes post offices and roads. If you said to somebody on the street, hey, what do you think about post roads, they wouldn’t think you meant the internet. There’s a huge difference between making an inference that they didn’t mean to exclude things that are new, but fit in the category they described, and making an inference that they meant something new and completely different from the thing that they described and still exists.

Agreed. I join this opinion. :slight_smile:

Well, Article I, Section 8 also says that Congress shall have power to “coin money.”

We coin very little money today, and virtually everybody agrees that “coining” money doesn’t limit the government from printing paper money and issuing the other forms of money that the term has expanded to. Some people do in fact consider any form of non-metal-based money to be unconstitutional. Those people are considered cranks.

Mostly all that says is we are not now and never have been consistent in how we apply change over time to the words of the Constitution.

The problem for the OP is that the internet is not in any way a modern version of the Post Office. Even if anyone granted that dubious premise (and could actually explain what the internet as public utility could possibly mean), all that would mean is that the government can create its own internet, not that they could ban use of the current internet, or compel people other than federal employees at work to only use theirs, anymore than the government can keep people for using the form of money known as cryptocurrency.