By: Noah Vehafric
Last week the Biden Administration released a sweeping Executive Order to supercharge antitrust enforcement across the federal government. The Order, designed to “promote competition in the American economy,” is a grab bag of various policy proposals; including calling on the FCC to “consider adopting” Title II-style net neutrality rules that were briefly in place from 2015 to 2018. The Administrations’ call for reviving net neutrality is not based on any demonstrable need. It is not about protecting an open internet or consumers. It actually is a mirage where instead of upholding the neutrality principles, the reality results in outdated and heavy-handed regulation of the internet. Reimplementing the failed and short-lived Title II regime of broadband regulation will be a detriment to the internet and the consumers and entrepreneurs who benefit from it.
Proponents of Title II reclassification want to prevent ISP’s from engaging in certain practices like blocking content, throttling speeds, paid prioritization of content and services, and the wanton increase of prices. These are admirable goals, but as FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr explained, Title II reclassification of broadband does not prevent ISP’s from engaging in any of these practices. Indeed there were 20+ years of internet history prior to the net neutrality rules where these practices did not happen, and they didn’t happen after the rules were repealed.
The net neutrality rules were repealed because unlike the hyperbolic speculations of the total destruction of the internet that never occurred after the rules’ recension, there was measurable harm as a result of the Title II regulatory regime.
In the years following the 2015 FCC Net Neutrality order, we saw two continuous years of decreasing investment in broadband and we saw home broadband connectivity fall 8 percent. This is no surprise since the literature indicates Title II regulation results in higher last-mile prices.
While the FCC has now made it resources about Restoring Internet Freedom private from public viewing, the record is still clear that repealing net neutrality rules provided a benefit to consumers. Home broadband adoption rebounded, speeds have been increasing, costs have been decreasing. American networks were able to serve huge surges of traffic during the COVID19 pandemic while European networks who regulate the internet like a utility suffered.
The principles that underly net neutrality are worthy and admirable but accomplishing it through restrictive Title II regulation is not the answer.
Photo credit: Sergey Zolkin