The Republican chairman of the Federal Communications Commission is warning that the new regulations governing the internet, which will be voted on later this month, will grant government control of the net, increase taxes, and require hidden fees that will make the internet less free, more expensive, and less innovative.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai issued a statement on Friday that highlighted some of the changes in the internet being sought by the government. Indeed, some of the details are alarming. The FCC’s plan regarding “net neutrality” may not even be legal, considering that the last two efforts to regulate the internet have resulted in court decisions that threw them out.
“President Obama’s plan marks a monumental shift toward government control of the Internet. It gives the FCC the power to micromanage virtually every aspect of how the Internet works,” Pai said. “The plan explicitly opens the door to billions of dollars in new taxes on broadband… These new taxes will mean higher prices for consumers and more hidden fees that they have to pay.”
In his initial cursory overview of the plan, the commissioner said it would hinder broadband investment, slow network speed and expansion, limit outgrowth to rural areas of the country and reduce Internet service provider (ISP) competition.
“The plan saddles small, independent businesses and entrepreneurs with heavy-handed regulations that will push them out of the market,” Pai said. “As a result, Americans will have fewer broadband choices. This is no accident. Title II was designed to regulate a monopoly. If we impose that model on a vibrant broadband marketplace, a highly regulated monopoly is what we’ll get.”
n an op-ed detailing the core aspects of his net neutrality plan published earlier this week, Wheeler described lumping ISPs under Title II of the 1996 Telecommunications Act — which based its authority on that used to regulate telephone monopolies at the dawn of the communication age — as the cornerstone.
“Using this authority, I am submitting to my colleagues the strongest open internet protections ever proposed by the FCC,” Wheeler wrote Wednesday. “These enforceable, bright-line rules will ban paid prioritization, and the blocking and throttling of lawful content and services.”
The plan described by Wheeler would ban wired and wireless ISPs like Verizon, AT&T, Comcast and Time Warner Cable from establishing tiered lanes of service speeds with varying prices for content creators like Netflix, Google, YouTube, Facebook and others based on speed and bandwidth use. It would also prevent ISPs from throttling, segregating or blocking traffic.
“Courts have twice thrown out the FCC’s attempts at Internet regulation,” Pai said recalling the lawsuit that struck down the FCC’s Internet authority last year, setting off the year-long debate. “There’s no reason to think that the third time will be the charm. Even a cursory look at the plan reveals glaring legal flaws that are sure to mire the agency in the muck of litigation for a long, long time.”
Treating the internet as a utility so that the government can use the Telecommunications Act to regulate it would be a disaster for consumers and businesses alike. While it is desirable that companies not be allowed to charge big broadband customers more for faster internet access (thus slowing down the net for the rest of us), any plan that dictates rates, or the way the internet is configured would make service more expensive and the internet less competitive. This would stifle innovation in an industry that thrives on it.
Is there a better example of the adage “If it ain’t broke, dont’ fix it”? Going forward, one can agree that intelligent regulation is needed to keep the internet vibrant and free. But the kinds of regulations being proposed by the FCC aren’t necessary to achieve that goal, and will only serve to empower government to stick its nose where it doesn’t belong.