By this point, the supposedly intelligent conversation about net neutrality and how best to regulate internet service providers has degenerated into a bunch of partisan mud-slinging crap. The worst rhetoric is coming from anti-net-neutrality lobbyists, who have decided to throw reason out the window and embrace the “Obamacare for the internet” idea first dreamed up by Ted Cruz.
Everything that’s wrong and bad about this position is handily drawn up in one tiny website, Unlockthenet.com, which is supposed to give you the untarnished facts about what net neutrality is and why it’s bad. Oh boy.
Things start badly with the claim that “In 2015, President Obama’s Federal Communications Commission (FCC) took the unbelievable step of applying the heaviest possible hand of government regulation to the Internet,” which probably has every Chinese citizen that lives under the Great Firewall scratching their heads.
It goes downhill with the rest of the snappy mission statement, which rewrites history describing the FCC’s rule-making process as “scare tactics and misinformation campaigns” that “opened the doors for forms of online censorship” before making some stunning hypothetical leaps to get to “potential price hikes on consumers” that haven’t materialized.
We’re not going to try and rehash the entire net neutrality debate here, but it’s worth reminding yourself exactly what this is pretending to talk about. In 2014, the former FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler led a process that resulted in a redefinition of internet service providers as Title II common carriers, which gives the FCC more theoretical regulatory power over ISPs, and ensures they can’t discriminate between the types of traffic carried over a network (the key tenant of net neutrality).
The FCC only moved to reclassify ISPs under Title II because of actions from the ISPs themselves. The FCC previously tried to use the existing legal framework to enforce net neutrality rules on ISPs, but legal action from the ISPs managed to challenge the FCC’s authority.
Unlike what UnlockTheNet might suggest, Title II classification doesn’t come anywhere close to a government takeover of the internet. Actually, it just means that ISPs have to act in the “public interest” and not abuse their considerable economic power over consumers to screw them over.