The repeal of net neutrality was supposed to trigger Armageddon
The repeal of net neutrality was supposed to trigger Armageddon, or so net neutrality proponents claimed. Yet, here we are. And here I am, blogging, creating internet real estate on a connection that’s faster than before.
I’m not the only one enjoying fast internet connectivity. According to Recode, internet speed rose on average, around 40% nationwide, this last year alone.
No longer is the US ranked 12th globally in broadband internet speed, we’ve jumped up to 7th in the time since net neutrality was sent packing.
The Boston Globe has more:
Perhaps this strikes you as something less than a stop-the-presses revelation. The internet, after all, has been expanding and accelerating for the past 25 years. Why should 2018 have been any different?
Yet last year, when the Federal Communications Commission moved to repeal the Obama administration’s “Net Neutrality” rule, much of the liberal establishment went berserk. Many in the media were sure the change would mean the “end of the internet as we know it.” A lavish online campaign backed by dozens of organizations issued a “Red Alert,” warning that if the FCC under Chairman Ajit Pai overturned the Obama regulations, it would “give the big cable companies control over what we see and do online” and “allow widespread throttling, blocking, censorship, and extra fees.” A New York Times business journalist bewailed the coming demise of the internet — undoing net neutrality, he wrote, “would be the final pillow in its face.” Other tech analysts were even more caustic. Nilay Patel, the editor of The Verge, proclaimed that with net neutrality gone, the internet was doomed. (“Doomed” wasn’t the word he used.)
In the abstract, this was a legitimate topic for debate. “Net neutrality” is jargon for a policy under which internet service providers (ISPs) such as Comcast and Verizon are required to treat all data equally, making no distinction among online websites or the features they offer. Advocates warned that if net neutrality weren’t mandated by the government, internet carriers would move data more slowly, exempting websites and apps only if they paid for preferential “fast lane” service. Or they would shift to a tiered subscription model, in which consumers seeking access to bandwidth gluttons like Netflix and YouTube would be charged more than consumers interested only in web browsing and email.
That argument was plausible in theory, but belied by history. Though the internet has existed since the early 1990s, it wasn’t until 2015 that the FCC imposed its net-neutrality regulations. Did it do so because the big ISPs were throttling internet traffic? Hardly. In the more than two decades during which the internet functioned without net-neutrality regulations, there was scant evidence that rapacious corporations were strangling web traffic. On the contrary: As the FCC’s own published data confirmed, between 2011 and 2015, internet speeds had been steadily rising.
The real impulse behind the Obama-era rules was to amass power. By designating broadband providers as the equivalent of telephone companies, the FCC claimed sweeping authority to regulate them under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934. That gave the agency a say in nearly every step taken by the broadband firms. “The FCC was empowered to decide if a network provider’s products were good for consumers, and innovative new services were suddenly viewed with suspicion,” explained Boston Globe technology reporter Hiawatha Bray. “For instance, the agency went after cellular companies for daring to offer free video and music streaming services. . . . Armed with Title II, [the FCC] could turn the Internet into something like the old Bell system telephone monopoly, famed for its near-total lack of technical innovation.”
So when the Trump administration last December voted to undo the net-neutrality rule, it was simply restoring the status quo ante. It was also acknowledging that the decision to arm an agency with significant new authority belongs to Congress, not to the agency’s own bureaucrats.
That was a move with which reasonable people could disagree. But the reaction from countless critics was anything but reasonable.
When the FCC floated repealing the Obama era power grabbing regulations, it wasn’t just professional media critics who lost their minds, we documented numerous occasions in which FCC Chairman Pai was harassed over the prospect of repeal, as were lawmakers who advocated the rule changes.
But we didn't get to enjoy it because we all died from the repeal https://t.co/o2rfZh5oC8
— Legal Insurrection (@LegInsurrection) December 31, 2018
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