Internet Freedom Works

Thursday's Editorial   —   Posted on February 26, 2015

net-neutrality
(by Ajit Pai, FCC and Lee Goodman, FEC at Politico.com) – For the past two decades, Internet freedom has been a remarkable success story. It has given the American people unprecedented access to information and an amazing array of opportunities to speak, debate and connect with one another. Its potential seems infinite as Internet companies expand services, technologists invent ever more life-enhancing applications and increasing numbers of Americans go online.

So, in the face of the greatest technological empowerment of people in the history of the world, why are regulators at our respective agencies, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the Federal Election Commission (FEC), calling for new government regulation of the Internet? The answer is simple. Unfortunately, some see any realm of freedom as a vacuum in need of government control.

For its part, the FCC is about to scrap a Clinton-era bipartisan consensus that

the Internet should be free from intrusive government regulation.

On Thursday (Feb. 26), the agency will likely vote to impose rules upon almost every nut and bolt of the Internet, from the digital connection at your house to the core of the network. In so doing, it’ll dust off the heavy-handed monopoly rules designed for Ma Bell [the phone company] back in the 1930s.

How heavy-handed?

  • The FCC will start regulating broadband rates.
  • It will decree, based on a vaguely defined “Internet conduct” standard, whether companies can offer consumer-friendly service plans (such as T-Mobile’s Music Freedom program, which offers customers unlimited access to streaming music).
  • It will institutionalize innovation by permission – giving advisory opinions on prospective business plans or practices (and companies will ask before innovating for fear of what will happen if they don’t).
  • It will even assert the power to force private companies to physically deploy broadband infrastructure and route Internet traffic in specific ways.
  • And in a gift to the plaintiffs’ bar, the FCC will deputize trial lawyers to file class-action lawsuits if they contend that any of these rules are being violated.

These Internet regulations will deter broadband deployment, depress network investment and slow broadband speeds. How do we know?:

Compare Europe, which has long had utility-style regulations, with the United States, which has embraced a light-touch regulatory model:

Broadband speeds in the U.S., both wired and wireless, are significantly faster than those in Europe.  Broadband investment in the United States is several multiples that of Europe. And broadband’s reach is much wider in the United States, despite its much lower population density.

So why is the FCC swinging the regulatory sledgehammer? It’s not to guarantee an open Internet. Nowhere in the 332-page plan – which you won’t see until after the FCC votes on it – can one find a description of systemic harms to consumers or entrepreneurs online. And small wonder, for the Internet is open today. Consumers can easily access the content of their choice. Online entrepreneurs can and do innovate freely.

No, the purpose is control for control’s sake. Digital dysfunction must be conjured into being to justify a public-sector power grab. Aside from being a bad deal for everyone who relies on the Internet, this [government-controlled] plan also distracts the FCC from what it should be focusing on: increasing broadband competition and giving consumers better broadband choices.

While the FCC is inserting government bureaucracy into all aspects of Internet access, the FEC is debating whether to regulate Internet content, specifically political speech posted for free online.

Ajit Pai is a member of the Federal Communications Commission. The opinions expressed are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the position of their agencies or the U.S. government. Lee Goodman is a member of the Federal Election Commission.

Published at Politico.com on Feb. 23. Reprinted here for educational purposes only.  May not be reproduced on other websites without permission from Politico.

Questions

1.  The purpose of an editorial/commentary is to explain, persuade, warn, criticize, entertain, praise or answer. What do you think is the purpose of the editorial written by Ajit Pai of the FCC and Lee Goodman of the FEC?  Explain your answer.

2.  What is the main idea of this editorial?

CHALLENGE: The writers oppose the concept of “net neutrality” that the FCC wants to enforce. They say it will have a negative impact on internet costs and speed for the average user.  Most media outlets say “net neutrality” is necessary to protect consumers and make the internet fair. They do not acknowledge any negative impact net neutrality might have on consumers.  As the FCC rules today, take note of your home internet speed and the cost of your internet service over the next year, as well as other restrictions and regulations that will be rolled out by the FCC.


Background

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is an independent agency of the U.S. government,  overseen by Congress to regulate interstate and international communications by radio, television, wire, satellite, and cable in all 50 states, D.C. and U.S. territories. It does the following:

  • Promoting competition, innovation and investment in broadband services and facilities
  • Supporting the nation’s economy by ensuring an appropriate competitive framework for the unfolding of the communications revolution
  • Encouraging the highest and best use of spectrum domestically and internationally
  • Revising media regulations so that new technologies flourish alongside diversity and localism
  • Providing leadership in strengthening the defense of the nation’s communications infrastructure

The agency is directed by five commissioners who are appointed by the President of the United States and confirmed by the U.S. Senate. The president also selects one of the commissioners to serve as chairman. Only three commissioners can be of the same political party at any given time and none can have a financial interest in any commission-related business. All commissioners, including the chairman, have five-year terms, except when filling an unexpired term.

The FCC is funded entirely by regulatory fees. It had an estimated fiscal-2011 budget of $335.8 million and a proposed fiscal-2012 budget of $354.2 million.

The FCC has 1,898 federal employees. (from the FCC website and wikipedia)

Resources

Read a November 2014 commentary on the same topic:
studentnewsdaily.com/editorials-for-students/the-department-of-the-internet