Net Neutrality or an Open Internet | Citizens Against Government Waste

Net Neutrality or an Open Internet

The WasteWatcher

On March 6, 2019, Congressional Democratic leaders joined together to announce legislation that would ensure “net neutrality.”  This legislation would codify former Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler’s government takeover of the internet by repealing the Restoring Internet Freedom Order (RIFO) of 2017, reinstituting the Open Internet Order (OIO) of 2015, and prohibiting the FCC from taking any action on this issue without the consent of Congress.

Claiming “strong bi-partisan support,” the authors of this three-page legislation did not name a single Republican in favor of their bill.  Indeed, they seem to have no intention of working with their Republican counterparts to resolve the question of an open internet, but instead plan to jam through legislation that would permanently impose antiquated Title II rotary dial telephone common carriage regulations (including rate regulation) on internet service providers (ISPs).  Title II does absolutely nothing to ensure that the internet will remain open.  It will lead to the exact opposite through a government-run monopoly, and ISPs will find it increasingly costly to meet stringent Title II regulatory burdens.

The confusion and misinformation leading up to and immediately following both the adoption of the OIO in 2015 and the RIFO in 2017 has created difficulties in engaging in a constructive dialogue about how to ensure the internet remains open.  The net neutrality debate isn’t about who is or is not killing the internet; it is about providing Americans with peace of mind that the future of the internet will remain steady and strong, without undue and unnecessary government intervention. 

After the OIO was adopted, investment in broadband networks slowed, even as internet traffic increased.  The 2018 FCC draft broadband deployment report, which was issued following the RIFO, shows that “the number of Americans with access to 250 Mbps/50 Mbps fixed broadband grew by over 45 percent to 205.2 million, and the number of rural Americans with access to such service more than doubled.”  In addition, Americans with access to fixed broadband at 100 Mbps/ 10 Mbps increased by 19 percent, from 244.3 million to 290.9 million.  According to Ookla’s December 2018 U.S. Broadband Report, broadband download speeds have increased by 35.8 percent.

If Democrats are truly serious about protecting the internet, they should work cooperatively with Republicans toward a solution that will codify the protections espoused by the FCC on August 5, 2005, which provided that 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.  These principles are embodied in bills like H.R. 1006, the Open Internet Act of 2019; H.R. 1096, the Promoting Internet Freedom and Innovation Act of 2019; and, H.R. 1101.  They are not in the Democrat’s bill.

If Congress codifies these principles, then consumers across the country will be assured of a truly open internet for years to come, without a government takeover.

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