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Putting the Net Neutrality Scare Stories to Rest

Today is the first day of the Internet operating under the Federal Communications Commission’s Restoring Internet Freedom Order (RIFO), which was adopted last December but is only coming into force this week. RIFO repeals the previous regime of regulation, implemented under former FCC chairman and Obama appointee Tom Wheeler, which regulated Internet service providers unter Title II of the Communications Act of 1934—the rules for so-called net neutrality. My colleague Jessica Melugin debunks a few myths about the issue in the video below.

For months leading up to the Restoring Internet Freedom Order coming into force, online activists and politicians who favored the old rules warned of an array of allegedly terrible consequences. Former New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, for example, was an especially vocal critic of rolling back net neutrality rules, before resigning from office earlier this year. Predictions that ISPs will (for example) suddenly start slowing down everyone’s access and blocking categories of content, however, don’t seem to reckon with the fact that the entire history of the consumer Internet up to 2015, when the neutrality standard was implemented, shows the opposite—increasing speeds, access, and availability of an explosively diverse universe of content. There’s no compelling argument that all of that will go away just because ISPs are no longer subject to Title II regulation. 

What some net neutrality activists have tried to suggest—that ISPs will now be free to downgrade your service or charge you more in violation of current subscription and contract terms—is absolutely untrue. The FCC is still watching out for anti-competitive and deceptive behavior, and the Federal Trade Commission is now taking the lead with robust enforcement powers in this area. Brent Skorup and Chad Reese of the Mercatus Center argue it could do even more. See also today’s blog post from the R Street Institute’s Joe Kane on why the doomsday predictions didn’t (and won’t) come true.

Getting rid of the old net neutrality regulations is about opening up the market for Internet service and content delivery in ways that will unleash a new generation of innovation and investment. We see that investment in broadband declined after the previous rules were implemented. It’s not surprising that companies would be less eager to invest billions of dollars into assets they expect to have less and less control over in the future. With greater freedom to price, discount, and negotiate on both sides (with content providers on the back end and consumer on the front end), companies will be better able to compete by offering new packages, bundles, and services. The Restoring Internet Freedom Order will move us toward better, cheaper and faster broadband for all Americans. 

>>>CEI RESOURCES ON NET NEUTRALITY

Commentary

  • A Chance to Improve the FCC | Commentary
    •  "The Open Internet Order, inspired by the net neutrality movement, has thwarted broadband providers’ efforts to give consumers better Internet plans at lower prices."
  • Congress Must Rein in the FCC on Net Neutrality | Commentary
    • "Investing in network infrastructure and developing innovative business models for delivering Internet access to Americans will be crucial as technology evolves. But the market won’t realize its potential if the FCC continues to expand its power over the Internet and micromanage transactions between broadband providers, content companies, and other players in the online ecosystem."
  • Net Neutrality Questions FCC Commissioners Need to Answer | Commentary
    • "​​​​​​​I think the best approach for the members is to frame all questions from the right perspective: that FCC’s entire purpose is outdated and its intervention destabilizing, anti-technology, anti-infrastructure—and just plain anti-Internet, and anti-neutral, for that matter."
  • The Premises of Net Neutrality | Commentary
    • "Yet special interests still want the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to regulate the content flows and grid infrastructure, the prices and services of the Internet via something called net neutrality. They actually are quite open about wanting government regulated monopoly power."

Research