CenturyLink, one of the nation’s largest Internet service providers, is filing a lawsuit challenging the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) net neutrality order.
CenturyLink’s lawsuit is the seventh such legal challenge since the commission voted to regulate and reclassify the Internet as a utility in February.
Target Wasn’t Net Neutrality
Scott Cleland, a telecommunications policy analyst who served as deputy U.S. coordinator for communications and information policy in the George H.W. Bush administration, says FCC’s net neutrality ruling was a stepping stone toward more pervasive telecom regulation. Cleland also serves as a policy analyst for The Heartland Institute, which publishes Budget & Tax News.
“It’s really about zero pricing for Silicon Valley,” Cleland said. “The FCC did Title II so it could have the legal authority to set a permanent price of zero for all Internet downstream traffic. You don’t need Title II to do almost anything else the net neutrality activists want. The only reason you need Title II is to price-regulate.”
Cleland says net neutrality was not FCC’s final goal but only a step toward fulfilling a larger ambition.
“What we’re talking about right now is a bait-and-switch,” Cleland said. “The FCC reclassifying the Internet as a public utility has nothing to do with net neutrality and everything to do with a power grab to enable them to control prices from Washington, DC … and what they want is a free price for downstream traffic, forever.”
‘Augment the Profits’
Seton Motley, president of Less Government, says FCC’s net neutrality order does little to benefit consumers.
“Net neutrality is massive regulatory protectionism for government-crony businesses,” Motley said. “It outlaws charging bandwidth-hog companies for being bandwidth-hog companies, which means our Internet access prices skyrocket to augment the profits of companies like Google and Netflix.”
Motley says net neutrality hurts consumers by retarding innovation and increasing people’s tax burdens.
“Net neutrality, as just imposed by Obama’s FCC, goes back in time a century to regulate the Internet under 1930s New Deal landline telephone laws, which are incredibly debilitating to innovation and subject the Web to an array of new taxes, including the massive, perpetually growing Universal Service Fund tax,” Motley said.
Decreasing ‘the Possibility of Competition’
Heritage Foundation Senior Research Fellow James Gattuso says net neutrality decreases competition and disserves consumers.
“It is a misconception that the government’s trying to increase competition,” Gattuso said. “These rules have very little to do with competition. They do nothing to actually create market forces. In fact, it decreases the possibility of competition by decreasing the possibility of differential products and differences in services.”
Government regulations discourage innovation and technological advances, Gattuso says.
“If you had the lack of innovation in the tech sector like we’ve seen in water utilities, we’d still be using cell phones the size of bricks and probably a Commodore computer,” Gattuso said.
Warner Todd Huston ([email protected]) writes from Streamwood, Illinois.
Fred B. Campbell Jr., “Impact of ‘Title II’ Regulation on Communications Investment: A Comparison Between the United States and the European Union,” Internet Innovation Alliance, https://heartland.org/policy-documents/impact-title-ii-regulation-communications-investment-comparison-between-united-stat