On Wednesday, the FCC’s Trump appointed chairman, Ajit Pai, announced the new plan to roll back Obama era net neutrality rules created by the agency’s 2015 Open Internet Order, calling it “an aberration” that “puts the federal government at the center of the internet.”
The FCC then quickly went on defense, and released the following fact sheet to get ahead of expected detractors. I’ve added some additional annotations to qualify the claims of the FCC.
Myth: Title II regulations are necessary to preserve a free and open Internet.
Fact: The Internet was free and open prior to the FCC adopting Title II regulations in 2015.
Context: While yes, the internet was free and open prior to the 2015 regulations, internet providers were attempting to “monitor, modify, block, and throttle internet traffic depending on the content, user, or application.”
Myth: Title II regulations haven’t reduced infrastructure investment and broadband deployment.
Fact: Among our nation’s 12 largest Internet service providers, domestic broadband capital expenditures decreased by 5.6% percent, or $3.6 billion, during the first two years of the Title II era. Title II also has hurt smaller providers’ ability to get financing and reduced infrastructure investment. In short, Title II has slowed broadband deployment and hampered the FCC’s efforts to close the digital divide.
Context: These statistics are somewhat out of context, and ignore the fact that the FCC classified cable internet as Title I in 2002, and investment fell. Many service providers have actually increased spending, and others predicted this decline years ahead of Title II.
Myth: Title II regulations are good for broadband competition.
Fact: Title II is a regulatory framework designed to regulate the Ma Bell telephone monopoly, not to encourage new entrants into the marketplace. And a regulatory framework designed for a monopoly will tend to push the marketplace towards a monopoly. Smaller, competitive broadband providers do not have the same resources as larger companies to cope with increased regulatory costs and have scaled back broadband deployment as a result of Title II.
Context: Smaller providers are exempt from these regulations to help avoid this issue. Additionally, judicial interpretation allows the Title II regulations to evolve in the modern world.
Myth: Title II regulations are good for online privacy.
Fact: Title II put Americans’ online privacy at risk by stripping the Federal Trade Commission of its jurisdiction over broadband providers’ privacy and date security practices. Ending Title II will restore the FTC’s authority and return to a tried-and-true approach that successfully protected consumers’ privacy prior to 2015. It will put our nation’s most experienced and expert privacy agency back on the broadband beat.
Context: Privacy and security protections have shifted from the FTC to the FCC under Title II. The FCC put in place stronger rules to protect consumers, which were repealed last month.
Myth: Title II regulations are good for innovation.
Fact: The Commission’s 2015 Title II Internet regulations have deterred Internet service providers from offering new and innovative services to consumers. For example, 22 small providers, each of which has fewer than about 1,000 customers, has told the FCC that because of Title II “each of us has slowed, if not halted, the development and deployment of innovative new offerings which would benefit our customers.”
Context: The Open Internet Order would not block “innovative new offering[s]” for small internet service providers, but it does “ban paid prioritization, throttling, traffic interference, and misleading commercial terms.”
Myth: Title II regulations are good for free speech and free expression.
Fact: Government regulation is not the friend of free speech, but an enemy. For example, the First Amendment doesn’t give the government power to regulate. It denies the government that power. Additionally, greater government regulation of the Internet is strongly supported by many who are fundamentally hostile to free speech.
Context: This “fact” doesn’t make sense in the context of the Title II regulations which are meant to protect individual rights to a free and open internet.
U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) is apparently not convinced, tweeting out:
Net neutrality protects us from corporate censorship of information. The FCC’s obligation is to the people. We want an equal, open internet.
— Tulsi Gabbard (@TulsiGabbard) April 26, 2017
Do you agree?