A Free Internet One Year Later | Citizens Against Government Waste

A Free Internet One Year Later

The WasteWatcher

One year ago, net neutrality proponents were demanding action, protesting in the streets, and threatening public officials and their families because the internet was going to die when the Restoring Internet Freedom Order (RIFO) became effective on June 11, 2018.  The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) adopted the RIFO on December 14, 2017, which overturned the 2015 Open Internet Order (OIO).

The loud cries of doom and destruction have all been for naught, as the internet continued to thrive, investments in new broadband networks increased, and access speeds improved.  This proves the point that the loudest voice is not always the right voice to listen to, and you can’t always believe what you read on the (ahem) internet.  Much like Chicken Little who called out that the “sky is falling,” these self-proclaimed “protectors of the internet” were nothing more than alarmists who sought a government takeover to solve a problem that didn’t even exist.

The protests are being revived, albeit not as personal and destructive as 2018 so far.  The demands to return to the OIO fly in the face of the achievements since the RIFO was adopted.  By the end of 2018, fiber deployment connected 18.6 million homes in the U.S.; the cable industry announced in January 2019 that it had deployed the first 10G network; and, 5G (next generation) deployments are well underway in cities across the country; and competition in an ever-expanding market is strong.  On June 10, 2019, US Telecom, which represents broadband providers across the country, released a preliminary report finding that in 2018, capital investment for broadband increased by approximately $3 billion, continuing the growth in investments since 2017.  According to the report, the recovery in investments that began in 2017 indicate the difference between the negative impact of the OIO versus the positive impact of the RIFO. 

In addition, with new 5G networks being built, jobs are being created that will bolster the economy.  According to FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr, building the 5G network will require “20,000 new workers as new tower techs in the space.”  Of course, not everyone is willing to climb a 200-foot tower, but just as small cell deployment has created a need for employees, so has laying more fiber for wireline competitors.  

Most Americans support the following four principles that have guided internet governance since 2005 (interrupted by the OIO):  1) consumers should be able to access lawful content of their choosing; 2) consumers should  be able to run applications and use services of their choice, subject to the needs of law enforcement; 3) consumers should be allowed to connect to the internet their choice of legal devices that do not harm or disrupt the network; and, 4) there should be competition among network providers, application and service providers, and content providers. 

Providing certainty for internet providers and customers alike should be a top priority for lawmakers.  This does not mean that codifying the Open Internet Order, like the misnamed “Save the Internet Act” that passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 232 to 190 on April 10, 2019, and has fortunately been deemed dead on arrival by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).  It means working in a bipartisan manner to embrace the 2005 principles and provide a meaningful framework that Sens. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) said will, “encourage innovation, increase investments, and close the digital divide.”  The Senate is taking a leadership role in making this happen by forming a bi-partisan working group to develop a permanent and workable solution to the ongoing debate.

The positive effects that the RIFO has had on broadband deployment and innovation cannot be ignored.  Congress must take note of the progress being made, and work toward codifying the principles under Title I of the Communications Act of 1934, rather than imposing an antiquated common carrier regulatory scheme intended for rotary dial telephones on the internet that were created under the OIO.  Such a scheme is the true threat to the internet.