The Federal Communications Commission voted to reverse Obama-era ‘net neutrality’ regulations Thursday, cheering free market advocates and sparking fierce resistance from opponents who fear customers will be at the mercy of service providers.
The final vote, as expected, came along party lines. Three GOP appointees voted for the change, while the two commissioners appointed by President Obama voted against it.
In recent weeks, critics of the reversal intensified their protests, claiming that reversing net neutrality would allow internet service providers to gouge consumers and force them into buying more of their products. They also suggest removing government control increases the likelihood of fewer players in the industry.
However those verbal protests have escalated in ways that draw alarm, going so far as to publicize the names of FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s children. Thursday’s proceedings were briefly interrupted by a security scare.
After the vote, the mainstream media posted alarming headlines. “End of the internet as we know it,” stated the headline at CNN.com.
On the CNN cable channel, the bottom of the screen read, “Party-line vote ends rules to keep internet open and fair.” On Twitter, the Associated Press reported, “BREAKING: The FCC votes on party lines to undo sweeping Obama-era ‘net neutrality’ rules that guaranteed equal access to internet.”
But is that what happened?
“Those folks obviously don’t need to know what they’re talking about to put out what they call news,” said former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, who is now director of the Regulatory Action Center at FreedomWorks.
“What happened today is that the internet was returned today to the state of light regulation. The word ‘light’ was used by Congress – you know the people who write the underlying laws for this stuff – way back in the nineties, that it had for its entire life until 2015,” said Cuccinelli.
Nonetheless, in recent weeks, critics of the reversal intensified their protests, going so far as to publicize the names of FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s children. Thursday’s proceedings were briefly interrupted by a security scare.
“Violence is acceptable to many on the left to achieve their political goals. Let me say that again. Violence is acceptable to many on the left to achieve their political goals. Those goals always involve more government control and power,” said Cuccinelli.
For those fearful of what a reversal of net neutrality might mean, Cuccinelli offers a challenge.
“I would challenge any of the conspiracy theorists on the left to identify one thing that was impaired before 2015 that was suddenly fixed by those regulations or in the whole two years since then that is suddenly imperiled again. The answer is they can’t. What has been provided is certainty of the freedom of the internet again,” said Cuccinelli.
But while opponents of the reversal face that challenge, critics might fire back by asking how the internet supposedly got worse over the past two years, thus requiring such a move from the FCC.
Cuccinelli says internet service providers slowed down the expansion and upgrading of their networks long before 2015 in anticipation of net neutrality from the Obama administration.
“Investment in the internet began to drop. We’re talking hundreds of billions of dollars. The internet doesn’t just exist. It has to be built and the government didn’t build it. Private entities built it and it’s expensive to build.
“So what the Obama administration was trying to do was tell people who built pieces of the internet what they could and couldn’t do with their own property. If that’s your option, are you as likely to build stuff if the government’s going to tell you what to do with it. Of course not,” said Cuccinelli.
“We were freed from that with Chairman Pai’s proposed and now adopted freeing of the internet, the actual freeing of the internet from government. Leftists believe freedom comes from government,” he added.
But what about the concerns that rolling back federal regulations will be bad news for consumers? Cuccinelli says there are still plenty of provisions in the law to help any customers being gouged by their service providers.
“When consumers are preyed upon on the internet, the [Federal Trade Commission] is still there and state attorneys general – something I know about – are there to police fraud and that sort of behavior, whether it’s on the internet or not. That opportunity still exists,” said Cuccinelli.
He also says there’s little reason to worry that competition among service providers will suffer.
“The ability to capture market share with no one else having any option to close in on you doesn’t exist anymore because of technology,” said Cuccinelli, who asserts that there is a much greater likelihood of competition eroding with the government picking winners and losers with respect to the internet.
Cuccinelli says if any regulations need to be added, they should not spring up from government bureaucrats.
“Let’s do it in the accountable body, the Congress, the one people vote for,” said Cuccinelli. “Although I hope they end up right where they are now, that Congress looks at all this and decides we don’t want more regulation on the internet. That has never worked,” said Cuccinelli.
With one side proclaiming freedom reigns on the internet and the other dreading the future with net neutrality kicked to the curb, Cuccinelli says reality will prove who is right.
“Thankfully, we’re going to have years of experience without this Obama-era regulation in place. People are going to see productivity is going up, more access, more opportunity, more products available,” he said.
Cuccinelli says when it comes to opportunity, expecting progress through the federal government is a proven failure.
“More regulation from government has never expanded opportunity, freedom, or productivity in the marketplace. There’s no reason to expect it to happen on the internet,” said Cuccinelli.