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States Shouldn't Interfere as Internet Freedom is Restored

By Katie McAuliffe | November 21, 2017

Net neutrality under Title II is far from “neutral.”

Title II means giving government control of the internet so unelected bureaucrats can micromanage how the internet is delivered, what people pay for the internet, and ultimately, what they see on the internet.

Chairman Ajit Pai and the Federal Communications Commission nixing Title II regulation of the internet would be the right move for individuals of all political stripes looking to create and share content on the internet. By mandating internet service providers treat all applications the same, service providers lack incentive to experiment with new ideas of how to get consumers the products they want.

In 1996, it was agreed that the internet was an information service and should be classified under the light touch regulation of Title I, not 1934's Title II, but in 2015, instead of implementing ‘innocuous’ Net Neutrality consumer protections, the Obama FCC forced through a major expansion of regulatory state power by reclassifying the internet under Title II.

Once Title II is undone at the federal level, it is critical that the FCC preempt states looking to impose Title II-type restrictions at the state and local level. While this may sound like it goes against the principle of state sovereignty, only Congress has the ability to regulate interstate commerce – and given the inherent interstate and international nature of the internet, this interstate limitation would apply.

The European Union is a prime example of what can go wrong when there are a multitude of varying regulations overlapping one another. In June of this year, after 10 years of negotiations, the European Commission lauded their own victory for finally eliminating roaming charges between European nations. Americans have enjoyed this capability for decades, but could see these types of benefits go away under a 50-state regulatory structure in the telecom industry. Not only does this type of policy kill innovation, it makes simple coordination across these localities incredibly difficult.

States wanting stronger privacy protections backed by privacy fundamentalists should recognize that markets and consumer demand are much stronger advocates for improved services than government mandates.

Firms looking to sell any type of product have a natural incentive to accommodate the desires of potential customers and improve upon inefficiencies in the current market. Letting that incentive work is how Netflix, Google, YouTube, Amazon, and other tech giants emerged, and it’s how future innovative companies will come about too.

By regulating the internet to the least common denominator, the FCC is unnecessarily stagnating the ever-changing internet landscape. As prior tech titans have shown, established, successful organizations with substantial economic interests are usually the only ones enamored with maintaining the status quo.

Advocates of this tangled web of regulations would be wise to learn that light-touch regulatory policies that allow companies old and new to both succeed and fail at taking market risks are better on the whole for smaller companies. That’s because smaller firms are more willing to take risks that their established peers won’t. But if those risks are regulated away in the name of “fairness,” “privacy,” or some other glittering generality, the nanny state only entrenches the status quo – a result big businesses are happy to see.

Undoing Title II is a win for an open, competitive internet marketplace. Letting California or New York undermine those efforts would be a mistake that would kneecap America’s internet.