An Open Internet Excludes Net Neutrality | Citizens Against Government Waste

An Open Internet Excludes Net Neutrality

The WasteWatcher

There is a huge misunderstanding regarding net neutrality.  Silicon Valley dot-coms and big e-commerce corporations are pushing the idea that the Restoring Internet Freedom Order approved by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on December 14, 2017 somehow rolled back protections for consumers, and will lead to the end of the internet as we know it.  But, it did nothing of the sort.  It simply rolled back the heavy hand of government over the internet, and restored consumer protection to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which was stripped out by the 2015 Open Internet Order.

It is a shame that special interests prey on the fact that few understand the technicalities involved in either order, which enables them to create confusion and angst over net neutrality.  Activists are agitating consumers with frightening accounts of what they project could occur if these heavy-handed rules were not re-imposed on internet service providers.  Lost in this debate is the objective of net neutrality advocates – a government-operated and controlled internet.

Throughout this debate, it has been hard to keep a level head while explaining net neutrality in plain terms, including the difference between Title II rules (as imposed by the so-called Open Internet Order) and an open internet, and why maintaining a light-touch regulatory regime over the internet (as intended when the government’s role was first established in 1996) is crucial to the global economy and society.  Net neutrality proponents have failed to maintain a civil discourse, resorted to fear mongering, issued racial slurs, and threatened physical harm against those who disagree with them.  This is just not how a fair and democratic society should operate. 

Another bit of disconcerting evidence of the brute force being used by net neutrality advocates is the revelation of the expenditure of more than $850,000 for one vendor to pay for sending letters urging members of Congress to support a Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution to rescind the Restoring Internet Freedom Order.  Passage of the CRA would roll back the law to the 2015 rules, which were an aberration in the history of government involvement in the internet, hindered the deployment of broadband network infrastructure and created confusion for consumers as to which federal agency would lead in protecting their privacy online.  Rather than having the FTC will regain and retain that role, as noted by a February 26, 2018 decision by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, there would once again be a confusing dual jurisdiction by the FTC and FCC.

Net neutrality is nothing more than meaningless buzz words loaded with misinterpretation and vague notions of what an open internet should look like.  The FCC defined an open internet in 2005, when it adopted four basic principles of an open internet:  consumers are entitled to 1) access the lawful internet content of their choice; 2) run applications and use services of their choice, subject to the needs of law enforcement; 3) connect their choice of legal devices that do not harm the network; and, 4) have competition among network providers, application and service providers, and content providers.  If Americans want an open internet enshrined in law, the letter-writing campaigns to Congress are asking for the wrong result. 

Consumers, internet service providers, and tech companies need certainty in how the government regulates any industry.  Instead of trying to garner support for a CRA, internet advocates should demand that Congress to take a hard look at the Telecommunications Act of 1996 and the Communications Act of 1934, and revise the laws to conform with today’s communications ecosystem.  Net neutrality as envisioned by its proponents would move the internet backward, not forward.  The nation’s and the world’s communications systems are no longer siloed by the medium in which the information or communication is relayed; it is a converged ecosystem with cable, fiber, mobile, satellite, telephone, wireless, and wireline products.  The Restoring Internet Freedom Order, until Congress modernizes the telecommunications laws, will keep the internet open and free.