The FCC has been pushed on reclassifying the internet under Title II, the same set of statutes that were used to govern Ma Bell when modern telecommunications was in its infancy in the 1940’s and 50’s. With a name like “net neutrality”, or open internet rules hitting a court wall aka illegal, Title II may sound like a great idea. It’s being touted as a way to ensure that all data from all sources would be treated equally with no “fast lanes” or pricing discrimination. Who wouldn’t want to make sure the internet was a place where ideas, opinions, services, goods, and information can be freely exchanged?
Fast lanes and slow lanes do not exist on the internet. Discrimination in the digital sense is completely different from discrimination in other contexts. As the user all content should and currently does appear seamless to you – emails, search, Facebook, Twitter, video chat, HD movie streaming or SD movie streaming. All content shows up as on your screen at the same quality level regardless of the size of the file or bandwidth required. The same amount of bandwidth is not needed for an email, as is needed for an HD movie, so prioritizing the HD movie will not make your email slower. Prioritization makes all internet connectivity work at the same speed from the user perspective.
While Title II is made to sound like it would promote free exchange on the internet, especially by preventing some users from having internet “fast lanes” while others were relegated to “slow lanes” and keeping internet providers from blocking content that they find objectionable, the reality would probably be quite a lot different. There is no rule in Title II that would prohibit ISP's from these types of discrimination. It is clear that reclassifying the internet under Title II is not a proposal designed with consumer interests, free markets or free speech in mind, but with the idea of giving a growing and ever power-hungry government the ability to regulate the internet through bureaucracy, price controls and heavy-handed new rules.
Title II is not the way to go. Legacy telephone companies are under this regulation for the type of voice service they provide. As a direct result of these regulations, where ever google fiber is deploying, it is not including voice service as an option because Google Fiber does not want to take the risk that it could be regulated under Title II!
Let’s not try to solve a problem that doesn't exist; let[s not play Minority Report with the Internet.
Title II reclassification would stifle innovation by introducing government control and regulation, and with it the likelihood of overreach and abuse, to the thriving free-market ecosystem that is the internet. Regulating the internet as a public utility would take power away from the people and put it in the hands of the government, muffle the small voices while amplifying the loud, and force would-be innovators to wrestle through red tape and obtain government permission before trying and creating anything new. All “net neutrality” has to offer us is bureaucracy, heavy-handed policies and a stagnant internet.