Wednesday, the Federal Communications Commission is scheduled to release the full text of their Restoring Internet Freedom Order, which is slated for a vote on Dec. 14. As is typical for any pro-market tech reform, the hot takes on the issue have been astoundingly alarmist.
The New York Times “objectively” told us who the winners and losers are: “FCC Plans Net Neutrality Plan in Victory for Telecoms.” The Washington Post gave us a vision of a dystopian technological future: “FCC plan would give Internet providers power to choose the sites customers see and use.” And Popular Mechanics went into full-blown screeching mode: “FCC is Revving Up to Destroy the Internet as We Know It.”
The truth is nowhere near the media’s scaremongering. In a competitive market, Internet service providers, or ISPs, are guided by the invisible hand to provide quality service that customers demand, just like any other good or service. The Restoring Internet Freedom Order will allow ISPs the freedom to innovate for humanity’s future.
Contrary to popular belief, the FCC’s actions would not plunge the Internet back to some regulatory dark age. Rather, the current net neutrality rules, dubbed the “Open Internet Order,” were adopted by the FCC in 2015 — hardly a Wild West age for the Internet.
The historical reality is that ISPs have respected the open Internet for decades almost without exception, allowing customers unfettered access to the entire World Wide Web at an affordable price.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai put it rather eloquently in an op-ed Tuesday for The Wall Street Journal:
We have proof that markets work: For almost two decades, the U.S. had a free and open internet without these heavy-handed rules. There was no market failure before 2015. Americans weren’t living in a digital dystopia before the FCC seized power. To the contrary, millions enjoyed an online economy that was the envy of the world. They experienced the most powerful platform ever seen for permission-less innovation and expression. Next month, I hope the FCC will choose to return to the common-sense policies that helped the online world transform the physical one.
The central flaw with net neutrality is its premise that all traffic should be treated equally. Like all idealistic aspirations of egalitarianism, some traffic is more equal than others … and it should be that way. Video streaming services and Voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP, technology takes up more bandwidth than other types of traffic.
Have you ever had trouble streaming Netflix on a Sunday night? If so, you have been the victim of net neutrality. ISPs should be allowed to experiment with appropriate traffic shaping to ensure that customers receive the best service for their streaming needs.
Indeed, the few companies that have been victimized for supposedly violating net neutrality have introduced some innovative services. Last year, T-Mobile received great backlash from groups like the Electronic Freedom Foundation for changes made to their mobile service plans. Their crime? Eliminating tiered data plans to offer unlimited data … with the caveat that users who use more than 26 gigabytes per month would get streaming video in standard definition unless customers pay a $25 monthly premium.
T-Mobile’s plan is incredibly innovative and affordable with a very reasonable caveat. Why should the government step in the way of our technological future? With a truly free and open Internet unburdened by excessive red tape, more breakthroughs are to come for the benefit of consumers and humanity as a whole.
Pai and the FCC should be applauded for their actions to come: repealing an antiquated regulatory framework for a 21st-century technology.
Casey Given (@CaseyJGiven) is a contributor to the Washington Examiner's Beltway Confidential blog. He is the executive director of Young Voices.
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