Warning: those who want to regulate the Internet with utility regulations from the 1930s have not gone away.
You may recall that the Obama Administration’s Federal Communications Commission approved net neutrality rules in 2015. Net neutrality rules were never approved by Congress. Instead, then-Chairman Tom Wheeler convinced the FCC to reclassify the Internet from being an “information service” to being a “telecommunications service,” which makes it subject to Title II of the Communications Act of 1934.
As part of the Trump Administration’s deregulation efforts, current Chairman Ajit Pai led the FCC to overturn net neutrality rules a year ago.
Now, though, the U.S. Senate passed a resolution that would reinstate net neutrality rules. The resolution was introduced under the Congressional Review Act, which allows Congress to revisit decisions by administrative agencies.
The resolution, which passed with the backing of all 49 Democratic senators and three Republicans, is just a political gambit, though, unless the House also takes action.
“House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) has said lawmakers in that chamber are focused on designing their own legislation to ‘permanently address this issue,’ casting doubt on whether the Senate resolution can advance,” The Washington Post reported. “And, given the White House’s endorsement of the FCC’s repeal, analysts say, it is unlikely that Trump will sign the resolution to make it effective.”
It’s About Government Control
Groups like Fight for the Future position net neutrality as a win for consumers. On its website, Fight for the Future says, “Alongside internet users everywhere we beat back attempts to limit our basic rights and freedoms, and empower people to demand technology (and policy) that serves their interests. Activating the Internet for the public good can only lead to a more vibrant and awesome world.”
“People from across the political spectrum, from the far left to the far right, can all agree: They don’t want their cable company to control where they get their news and information, how they listen to music, or where they can stream videos,” according to Evan Greer, deputy director of Fight for the Future.
Stated that way, who could disagree? Few people like their cable companies, because they operate as monopolies in their geographic markets. As a result, they are typically unresponsive and overpriced.
Net neutrality allegedly would limit the ability of cable companies to control content. Currently, though, content is determined by supply and demand. You can find almost anything you want on the Internet and stream it on your television. Wouldn’t government regulation be likely over time to limit content? Might government control politicize your news and entertainment?
While few people want cable companies to have the local market power they currently enjoy, using a law from the 1930s to regulate the Internet is a bad idea. Congress needs to come up with a better solution. Until then, let’s just say “no” to net neutrality.