At an event on the Hill Tuesday, April 9th, a panel of ideologically diverse experts discussed the issues facing the United States with respect to the upcoming FCC net neutrality case. Moderator Seton Motley and panelists Phil Kerpen, Ryan Radia, Gigi Sohn, and Sascha Meinrath initially focused on the meaning and implications of the FCC’s actions with respect to net neutrality. While some parties seemed to understand that net neutrality is merely an opportunity for the power hungry FCC to expand its influence into markets that are not in need of what it calls help, others seemed willing to buy that the regulations would somehow benefit the private sector. Aas the debate progressed, the conversation also addressed larger issue of the proper place for the government and its entities like the FCC in today’s complicated, modern communications market.
All parties at the event seemed to agree that net neutrality is about much more than a simple act of FCC rulemaking. While phrased differently by those in favor and against net neutrality, the issue comes down what role the FCC and government in general should have in the fast-paced world of modern communications markets. Those opposed to net neutrality and generally in favor of free market, namely Kerpen, Radia and moderator Motley argued that those who promote net neutrality support a model that prizes failed government interventionism over private enterprise and investment. Sohn and Meinrather did not dispute that net neutrality and the perhaps even more controversial Title II reclassification which Sohn supports would increase government involvement in a market which has been largely unregulated. However they argued, partially through the use of controversial international rankings, that issues in areas such as broadband warrant government involvement in net neutrality and other areas
The debate over net neutrality is far from over, and a decision from the DC Circuit Court is not expected for some months. It must be remembered however, that the battle over net neutrality is, as today’s panel showed, more than a single issue. It is a fight over the role of government and its agencies in communications markets where their absence has allowed for unprecedented growth and innovation. As the free market advocates on Tuesday’s panel rightly noted, policies like net neutrality and the even worse Title II reclassification would restrain innovation and investment. In economic times where the internet offers a bright spot in an otherwise sluggish landscape, that is not a mistake America and the FCC can afford to make.