Dec 14, 2018

A Year After Landmark FCC Vote and the Internet Is Just Fine

Post by Freedom Partners

On Dec. 14, 2017, heavy-handed so-called “net neutrality” regulations were repealed through approval of the Restoring Internet Freedom Order. Those in opposition thought the repeal would change the internet for the worse.

Much of the rhetoric to that effect was apocalyptic, arguing that the repeal of net neutrality would create a “Wild West” of “extra fees” and “censorship,” putting “the future of the world” in jeopardy.

Yes, if there’s one thing for which the Wild West was known, it was the rampant censorship.

But these doomsaying predictions simply haven’t come true. The internet is fine. Actually, it’s better than ever.

What Is Title II?

Under the Obama administration, internet service providers (ISPs), such as Verizon and Comcast, were reclassified as utilities under Title II of the Communications Act. These regulations were designed to rein in telephone companies in 1934, applying that classification to wireless data.

Prior to this, ISPs were placed under Title I, whose regulations are less onerous.

These new rules under Title II are more commonly known as net neutrality. They were established to the limit the ability of ISPs to block, speed up or throttle content sent to consumers, banning “discrimination” against sites by broadband companies. But to achieve those goals, the Obama-era FCC used heavy-handed utility-style regulation effectively blanketing the internet with red tape.

That was entirely unnecessary, though. These practices were followed reliably and without regulation by engineers working for ISPs.

A common-sense solution exists: unfair or deceptive trade practices can be referred to the Federal Trade Commission just as they are in other industries. This is why Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai called Title II regulation “a solution that won’t work to a problem that simply doesn’t exist.”

Why Doesn’t A Heavy-Handed Approach Work?

What worked about the very light regulatory touch of the pre-Title II days — that is, for most of the internet’s existence — was that firms were free to innovate while actual cases of malpractice could be identified individually and with precision.

Title II-style net neutrality, on the other hand, is like performing surgery with a jackhammer. Its provisions chill innovation, broadly regulating new and innovative business practices, improvements to technology and even pricing systems. And, speaking of surgery, net neutrality could have stifled vital innovations such as remote surgery by refusing to allow ISPs to prioritize some bits over others.

Long story short, net neutrality would put an anchor on the lightning-speed innovation for which the internet is so famous, while codifying onerous and duplicative regulations to the benefit of no one but the government.

Apocalypse Not Now

After net neutrality was repealed, the internet is still around — and, because we constantly innovate online, better than ever. The FCC imposed limited and appropriate transparency mandates on ISPs and the FTC can protect consumers in this area as it does in others.

For most of the internet’s life, we’ve adopted a permissionless approach, allowing it to grow and innovate in ways that were inconceivable even a few years prior.

Title II regulation stifled that progress. And now, Americans can continue to enjoy the internet — “apocalypse” free.