A Message From Representative Ted Yoho 

Dear Friends, 

Today the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) will be addressing the issue of net neutrality. Our offices have received a lot of calls about this topic. I would like to share this column I wrote for the paper Neighbor to Neighbor that highlights my views on net neutrality. I hope you find it informative. 

Sincerely, 

Ted

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Net neutrality, defined simply, is the principle that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) should treat all Internet traffic the same regardless of the source. During the Obama administration, the FCC voted in 2015 to mandate net neutrality as a matter of federal law, reclassifying ISPs as common carrier utilities under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934 in the process.

This vote placed government regulation on the Internet based on outdated principles from the 19th Century that were used to regulate the railroads, which in turn were used to regulate telephone service in 1934. That is like trying to put on a jacket you wore as a kid; it doesn’t fit. It is important to point out that the 2015 vote stripped the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) of its jurisdiction over broadband providers. The FTC is the country’s strongest antitrust cop, and is the federal agency with the best expertise in fighting illegal anticompetitive behavior. In my opinion, the FCC’s actions where short-sighted and are rightly being reviewed by the new FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. 

The debate surrounding net neutrality is extensive and at times very heated. As with most issues, people for and against tend to spin their facts. Advocates of net neutrality have been concerned about the ability of broadband providers to block Internet applications and even to limit competition without additional oversight and regulation by the FCC.  

The solution, proponents of the 2015 FCC order argued, was to reclassify broadband providers as common carriers under Title II of the Communications Act, which granted the FCC the ability to regulate them like it used to regulate the Bell Telephone monopoly. Opponents of this regulation feared that regulating the Internet like a utility under Title II would allow the government greater intrusion into the lives of the American people, and that more government interference in the Internet would stifle creativity and increase the cost of Internet access to consumers. 

While most agree with the concept that the flow of data on the Internet should be treated equally, I am concerned with any government overreach.  The FCC exceeded its authority by regulating broadband providers under Title II. The move did nothing but stifle competition, cause inefficiency in the market, and cause investment in broadband networks to decline.  Additionally, more government regulation of the Internet, or any industry for that matter, usually leads to greater burdens on consumers. Instead of making the Internet more open, the FCC’s 2015 abuse of power was counterproductive, and I’m glad it is being addressed.

The Restoring Internet Freedom Order, which will be voted on by the Commission on December 14th, would restore the legal framework that governed broadband providers before the FCC’s 2015 regulation was issued. The pre-2015 structure enabled the Internet as we know it today to grow and flourish--it’s tough to honestly argue that the Internet was poorly functioning just before the FCC’s 2015 order and only became successful following that order. The Restoring Internet Freedom Order would also reinstate the FTC’s authority to prevent anticompetitive behavior by broadband providers, who remain subject to federal antitrust law.

Everyone is worried that the new FCC decision will ruin the Internet; those fears are overblown. The FCC is simply removing outdated 19th Century-style regulation on the Internet and returning the federal government’s involvement in the Internet to the pre-2015 framework that will preserve safeguards against unfair business practices and open up the Internet to more innovation.

 

 

 
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