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October 2 2019

Court Victory for Rolling Back Net Neutrality

by Charlotte Hays

On the way out the Obama administration saw the FCC achieve one of the former president’s “long-held political goals:” so-called net neutrality. 

Essentially, net neutrality sought to regulate the internet, heretofore an engine of tremendous economic growth, as if it were a public utility.

Yesterday, the United States Court of Appeal for the District of Columbia largely upheld, by a 2-1 vote, Trump-nominated FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai's authority to rollback the Obama-era regulationThis is a victory cv

If the internet had been regulated under net neutrality (a misleading term), it  would have represented “profound shift” in the way the internet is regulated. Reason’s Peter Suderman explains:

It was a profound shift in internet regulation, which from the beginning had survived, and arguably thrived, under a regulatory approach that was largely hands-off. Now the federal government would effectively be the arbiter of which network practices would be acceptable and which would be forbidden. 

. . .

It would also place a substantial burden on internet service providers (ISPs), which warned of decreased investment under the new regulatory scheme, and for little obvious consumer benefit. Although net neutrality supporters frequently invoked dire hypotheticals about the end of a free and open internet, they produced few significant examples of net neutrality violations in the real world. Net neutrality was a prophylactic, not a solution to an existing problem. 

Suderman argues that there was no evidence that such a prophylactic was needed:

The evidence for the Trump FCC's decision to roll back the Obama administration's regulatory expansion, however, is in the state of the internet itself: Broadband speeds are up, and the United States leads the world in overall data traffic. The internet, while imperfect, has not become the sluggish, apocalyptic, dysfunctional mess that net neutrality backers warned. 

And while it is true that large tech companies have, in some cases, suppressed the expression of certain political ideas on their online platforms, that suppression—which is not, strictly speaking, censorship in the First Amendment sense, and is legal—has tended to come from social media companies who supported some form of net neutrality.

Even in the absence of net neutrality rules, the internet, in other words, remains as it has always been: fascinating, frustrating, infuriating, invigorating—or, at the very least, just fine. 

The lawsuit was filed by 20 state attorneys general and several pro-net neutrality internet companies.

 





Independent Women's Forum is an educational 501(c)(3) dedicated to developing and advancing policies that aren’t just well intended, but actually enhance people’s freedom, choices, and opportunities. IWF is the sister organization of the Independent Women’s Voice.​
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