Internet Still Exists a Year After Net Neutrality Appeal

Last year, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) repealed the Obama-era power grab commonly called "net neutrality," returning to the statutory-based regulatory regime in place prior to 2015.  FCC Chairman Ajit Pai was viciously attacked for his efforts to restore the rule of law to internet regulation, including receiving death threats to him and his children.  Yet a year later, the internet is still thriving.

Telecommunications scholar Dr. Roslyn Layton of the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) summarizes the fear-mongering over the net neutrality appeal and what it actually did:

A year ago today, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) repealed the harmful 2015 internet regulation dubiously titled the “Open Internet Order.”  The Washington Post, The New York Times, CNET, Ars Technica, Recode, The Verge, and advocacy groups such as Free Press and Public Knowledge predictably forecasted apocalyptic consequences to the rollback of the regulation, mischaracterizing the Restoring Internet Freedom Order (RIFO) which replaced it. CNN declared “the end of the internet as we know it,” and other media outlets said the RIFO was “gutting the rules that protect the internet,” and “that the internet has no oversight.” A year later, the internet is alive and well. The media and pundits are unlikely to issue corrections, but here are some facts to remember.

When the media talks about the end of the internet, they are referring to the end of the price control that favored Silicon Valley at the expense of consumers. The Sacramento Bee lamented that California’s tech companies “could be forced to pay more money to keep using the internet as we do today.” . . . 

Many media outlets have said the FCC is removing all rules, when in fact the FCC has strengthened its transparency rules, the most important of all. These media outlets also claimed the FCC has removed “all” oversight when the agency has actually added cops on the beat. Today there are not one, but two, federal agencies tasked with protecting the internet. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) policed the internet from 1996 to 2015, a period when the internet experienced massive growth and success. Given its considerable prowess in enforcement (some 500 actions against internet service providers and a $100 million case against an ISP for transparency violations in 2014) and consumer protection (its ability to recover funds for consumers), the media should celebrate the restoration of the FTC’s authority to police the internet. . . .

Chairman Ajit Pai testified in Congress that the [net neutrality] rules depressed investment and that the RIFO reversed that trend. The FCC has also assiduously documented slowed network deployment in wireless and wireline technology under the Open Internet Order. . . . Additional harms include loss of privacy protections and consumer sovereignty, and threats of violence directed at internet freedom supporters.

As we have seen across the Trump Administration as Republican officials seek to restore the rule of law, efforts to return to regulations that interpret their enabling statutes instead of aggregating power in the issuing agency have resulted in better outcomes and more freedom for individual citizens around the country.  Thank you, Chairman Pai, for restoring freedom to the internet and its regulatory scheme despite the criticism and vicious attacks you faced.