Growing Republican participation in the war on “big tech” has many in the party on the precipice of sacrificing one of the Trump era’s more significant policy wins. While the sky has seemingly fallen in 2020, some Chicken Littles were proven decidedly wrong on “net neutrality.”
Towards the end of the Obama administration, the Democratic FCC majority effectively designated Internet Service providers (ISPs) as public utilities to prevent the companies from manipulating Internet traffic in allegedly harmful ways. This, despite scant evidence of such harms. They called this “net neutrality.” Critics of the move pointed to deleterious effects on critical network investment as a significant actual cost outweighing any theoretical benefit. There were also concerns about inappropriate political pressure in the FCC’s rulemaking process. All of this made reversing the utility designation a priority for regulatory reform-minded conservatives and the new Republican majority at the FCC.
The hyperbole over a wonky issue of regulatory classifications devised in the 1930s reached absurd levels. CNN proclaimed the new FCC majority’s move as “The end of the Internet as we know it,” and a bomb threat was called in to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on the day of the vote to roll back the Obama-era rules.
Today, even in the midst of a pandemic causing massive surges in traffic, the Internet in America is not just fine, it is outperforming global networks and more people are enjoying faster connections than ever. It is the defining victory for the FCC’s current Republican majority, and arguably one of the crown jewels of the broader Trump-era deregulatory push.
Alas, the culture war has gotten in the way.
Read the full article on The Bulwark.