The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted to begin the process of undoing a 2015 decision by former FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler classifying broadband internet as a public utility.
FCC commissioners on May 18 approved FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s proposal to begin drafting regulations undoing Wheeler’s Open Internet Order, a 2015 rule claiming FCC authority to impose traffic decisions, known as net neutrality, on internet service providers (ISPs), which Wheeler claimed was justified by Title II of the Telecommunications Act of 1934.
Bruce Walker, a policy advisor for The Heartland Institute, which publishes Budget & Tax News, says net neutrality is about controlling consumers, not protecting them.
“Net neutrality means government controls the pipes of the internet, whereas during the era preceding net neutrality, it was consumers who sought and demanded personal control,” Walker said. “This latter approach benefited consumers by prompting billions of dollars of investment and buildout of internet access. The former approach, sadly, is resulting in an internet hamstrung by overregulation.”
Solving Imaginary Problems
Wheeler’s Open Internet Order was an answer to a theoretical problem no one was experiencing in practice, Walker says.
“The Open Internet or network-neutrality rules were intended to solve a nonexistent problem, which essentially was overblown fears privately owned and operated internet service providers might grant preferred status to some legal content over others,” Walker said. “We now have direct, empirical evidence to show how the internet works unfettered by government interference as well as with net neutrality. There were minimal to no problems under the light regulatory touch between 1994 and 2015. Since net neutrality became a de facto law without any congressional input, investments and innovations have hit a wall.”
Market Protecting Consumers
Gerald Faulhaber, a professor emeritus of business economics and public policy at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, says market forces have already protected consumers better than FCC could have ever hoped to do.
“The FCC should get out of the business of trying to regulate interconnection between ISPs and content providers,” Faulhaber said. “The market has provided this extremely well, and there’s no reason to regulate that.”
Regulation Versus Innovation
Technological progress and government regulation are at odds with one another, Faulhaber says.
“For 20 years, the internet was not regulated at all,” Faulhaber said. “If you think about what the internet did, it’s pretty much the highest speed of innovation we have ever seen in our lives. Generally speaking, it has been a tremendous benefit to mankind, completely without regulation.”