We live in what is arguably the greatest time of technological innovation and transition. Along with this comes great dispute over how to handle the constantly growing, changing, and evolving technology of this day and age. At the top of the current disputes is net neutrality.
Net neutrality is the principle that prohibits internet service providers (ISP) such as AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon from speeding up, slowing down, charging more for, or blocking any content they may select to such as websites, streaming services, and social media.
The regulations of net neutrality were put in place by the Obama Administration. The administration subjected the internet to Title II of the 1934 Communications Act (Title II), which classified the internet as a public utility.
The internet, as a public utility, is under the control of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The Republican majority FCC is now attempting to repeal the net neutrality regulations.
Supporters of net neutrality claim that if it were to be repealed, the internet service providers would partake in anti-competitive behavior by slowing down or blocking data in favor of certain sites.
However, the proof that this would occur without net neutrality is sparse.
The cell phone networks of today are not subject to the regulations of net neutrality, and we see no such behaviors between them. Why do we assume it will ensue between the ISPs?
Even if an ISP were to choose to block or slow down certain sites, a consumer would have the option to end their service with that ISP in favor of one who did not display such behaviors.
Furthermore, if an ISP were to discover they were losing consumers because of such behaviors, would they not stop in an attempt to save their profits?
There is no proof backing up the assumption that there will be an explosion of anticompetitive behavior with the repeal of net neutrality because no modern-day companies are displaying such actions.
Those in favor of preserving net neutrality also claim that if it were to be repealed, innovation of companies and organizations would be hampered.
In reality, because of the FCC having control over the internet, ISPs are required to submit proposals for any type of new technology and business models. Because of the FCC’s long, gruesome, and often indecisive or inconclusive process of bringing new things into the market, the innovation of companies comes to a standstill.
Brent Skorup in the National Review said “the FCC can decline the request for an opinion, can permit the innovation, or can require more information from the submitting party.”
“These opaque determinations cannot be appealed and affirmative decisions can be reversed at the agency’s whim.”
As long as the internet is with the FCC, it is under Title II jurisdictions. This means the FCC has complete power over which companies and organizations are allowed to enter into the ISP market.
If net neutrality were to be repealed, destructive regulations and requirements would be lifted off the backs of the smaller companies. This would allow them to enter the marketplace more efficiently and give the existing companies more freedom to introduce new technology and innovations.
Both of these would expand consumer choice and help improve the internet that is used around the world every day.
However, the hampering of innovation is not the only downside to the FCC being allowed to micromanage the internet. Under the FCC’s regulations, the internet is subject to an abundance of crippling taxes.
The FCC has the power to levy taxes against the companies under Title II. Between all of its unnecessary taxes and regulations, the FCC makes it extremely cumbersome for smaller, newer ISPs to make it in the marketplace.
FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai said “small ISPs reported that Title II is preventing them from rolling out new services and deepening their networks. These are the companies we want to provide a competitive alternative in the marketplace.”
Ian Tuttle noted at the National Review on one 2014 study of net neutrality that the net neutrality regulations could result in as much as $45.4 billion in new ISP investments being lost over the next five years. This is proving true as they have already been lost in investments. In fact, capital expenditures among the dozen largest ISPs fell 5.6 percent from 2014 to 2016.
With the internet being under the control of the FCC, there is a decline in new ISPs entering the market. This is lowering healthy competition in the ISP market and limiting consumer choice.
Allowing the FCC’s control over net neutrality to continue will only bring harm to consumers of the services and the market itself.
If net neutrality is kept under the control of the FCC, consumer choice will be limited, innovation hampered, and potential new companies and technologies could be lost.
If the repeal of net neutrality means its release from the iron grip of the FCC and the micromanagement of the government, then it is necessary.