Net Neutrality Is Another Solution Looking for a Problem

Do you trust the federal government to make the Internet ecosystem more vibrant than it is today? Can you think of any regulated utility like the electric company or water company that is as innovative as the Internet?

These are questions asked by FCC Commisioner Ajit Pai, an oustpoken opponent of expanding government control of the internet, including FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler’s plan to regulate Internet Service Providers (ISPs) under the same Title II rules that are used to govern telephone-service providers as public utilities. Under current FCC regulations, ISPs are considered providers of “information services” and subject to essentially no federal regulation.

Pai is also sharply critical of President Barack Obama’s very public push to influence policy at the FCC, which is technically an independent agency. Last year, it was widely believed that Wheeler, a former head of the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, would not push for Title II. Pai calls the president’s actions—which included “creating a YouTube video of with very specific prescriptions as to what this agency should do”—unprecedented in his experience. Coupled with the fact that “the agency suddenly chang[ed]course from where it was to mimic the president’s plan,” says Pai, “suggests that the independence of the agency has been compromised to some extent.” Citing independent studies of American competitiveness and booming investment in telecommunications infrastructure compared to Europe, Pai argues that consumers are thriving and the market is doing its job.

Pai asks….

Do you trust the federal government to make the Internet ecosystem more vibrant than it is today? Can you think of any regulated utility like the electric company or water company that is as innovative as the Internet?

History shows that the government is an utter failure at doing anything without 1) taking far too much time & 2) spending far too much money doing it.  It also shows that they will bend to the will of monied interests. FCC chairman Wheeler has said that the release of the actual changes to be made will not be available to the public for some time.  Last minute changes, such as those submitted by Google, resulted in entire core sections of the document to be removed.  It’s assumed that other changes will be taking place as the rules are edited in what Wheeler calls “an ongoing process”.

While the net neutrality rules are incredibly important, the FCC’s decision on municipal broadband may actually wind up being more meaningful over the long run. Neutrality violations are really just a symptom of a lack of competition. Several states now have laws in place — usually based entirely on ISP/ALEC model legislation — that prohibit towns and cities from improving their own broadband infrastructure — even in instances where nobody else will. In some cases these rules even go so far as to prohibit towns and cities from striking public/private partnerships to improve broadband service. Rather than do something to foster more competition in the marketplace, the FCC, with the president’s encouragement, has decided it needs to play dictator to the internet.

Stacy George

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