Meeting with representatives of telecommunication companies in April, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai reportedly promised to work to roll back his predecessor’s efforts to control the internet.
Reuters reported Pai told telecommunications companies’ representatives on April 4 he plans to reverse former Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler’s “net neutrality” rules, enacted in 2015, and replace them with voluntary agreements with internet service providers to refrain from obstructing or slowing consumers’ data transfers.
If It Ain’t Broke …
Scott Cleland, U.S. coordinator for communications and information policy under President George H.W. Bush, says FCC’s net neutrality rules were just a way to increase the agency’s power over consumers.
“Net neutrality has long been a solution in search of a problem,” Cleland said. “There is consensus that consumers should have the freedom to access the legal content, apps, and devices on the net. Where it became controversial is when the previous FCC imagined it needed to reclassify broadband as a Title II common carrier monopoly service for competitive companies. That was totally unjustified, unwarranted, and unnecessary, … a huge mistake.”
Regulation for Regulation’s Sake
Net neutrality is just another way of saying “more government restrictions,” Cleland says.
“Net neutrality proponents now claim Title II utility regulation of broadband is net neutrality,” Cleland said. “Consumers are harmed by unnecessary net neutrality regulation that discourages investment in faster networks and innovative new offerings like 5G gigabit mobile broadband. Why would an internet service provider not want to win a new customer by providing it the bandwidth it needs?”
Guilt Without Evidence
Katie McAuliffe, executive director of Digital Liberty, a nonprofit organization promoting policies encouraging a consumer-driven technology market, says FCC’s net neutrality rules solved a problem no one had.
“There hasn’t been any indication that any of these companies are blocking or practicing any type of anticompetitive behavior.” McAuliffe said. “If one of the ISPs were to block content from Amazon or the like, it would be considered anti-competitive, and they could easily be taken to court. In fact, Comcast was taken to court over blocking and slowing, and [FCC] lost.”
McAuliffe says FCC should enact policies promoting consumers’ interests, instead of increasing its own political power.
“Neutrality should mean that everything appears on my screen equally and seamlessly, so I, as a customer, don’t notice any issues,” McAuliffe said. “The speed of an email, the speed of a webpage loading, the speed of a video, and the speed of a video game should all appear seamlessly. When you think about the amount of data a video chat needs versus the amount of data an email needs, the video chat should be prioritized so that you don’t have latencies and so there are no blips in your conversation. Email doesn’t require as much bandwidth. By prioritizing a video chat, you’re not actually harming anyone receiving e-mail.
“Net neutrality is ill-conceived in that it thinks about neutrality in terms of bits and bytes in the network, not neutrality of customer experience,” McAuliffe said.