The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted to undo a 2015 decision by former FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler classifying the internet as a public utility.
FCC commissioners on December 14 approved the Restoring Internet Freedom Order, proposed by Chairman Ajit Pai in May 2017. The action reverses Wheeler’s Open Internet Order, a 2015 rule claiming FCC authority to regulate networking traffic decisions, a policy known as “net neutrality,” on internet service providers (ISPs), which Wheeler claimed was justified by Title II of the Telecommunications Act of 1934.
Charging Up Cyber Choice
Steven Titch, a policy advisor with The Heartland Institute, which publishes Budget & Tax News, says net neutrality limited ISPs’ ability to serve people.
“Net neutrality was a silly idea, and it’s on the trash heap now, where it belongs,” Titch said. “There’s going to be a lot more consumer benefits, because ISPs and their content partners will have a lot more options in terms of packaging services, discounts, and special deals. They are now free to do all of that.”
Titch says the Restoring Internet Freedom Order will promote fairness and flexibility for internet companies and customers alike.
“It’s going to give ISPs, content providers, and everyone in the internet value-chain opportunities to deliver their best product to consumers in the best way, with multiple choices,” Titch said. “They come to a voluntary agreement as to how they’re going to operate, and that’s the way it’s supposed to work. We don’t need a regulatory regime in there to essentially favor one group over another.”
Unleashing Infrastructure Investment
Gerald Faulhaber, professor emeritus of business economics and public policy at the University of Pennsylvania, says FCC’s use of Title II regulations to regulate the internet stifled capital investment.
“If you put Title II regulation on ISPs, investors are not happy with that,” Faulhaber said. “They’re not going to be willing to put money up for ISPs to expand, because now all of a sudden they’re in a highly regulated industry.”
Faulhaber says the FCC order returns regulatory burdens to where they were during the internet’s golden years.
“It returns internet regulation to what it was before 2005,” Faulhaber said. “To my mind, this is actually exactly where we ought to be. If you think about the growth of the internet from 1995 to 2005, that was one of the greatest things we’ve ever seen in our time. It was just incredible growth and innovation. I can’t name another time in the past when we saw such tremendous growth and creativity.”