Comments of Free-Market Advocates Opposed to Internet Regulation
For 10 years officials at the Federal Communications Commission have told Americans that the Internet will “break” unless the agency steps in to keep it “free and open.” All the while, the Internet’s privately driven development has been vibrant, relentless and universal. Nevertheless, at points during this same period the Commission twice sought to encumber the Internet with restrictive common carrier-like, Net Neutrality regulations. In response to each of these actions, the DC Circuit twice struck down the agency’s overreach. In the latest DC Circuit ruling – Verizon v. FCC – the Court struck down the main thrust of the Commission’s arguments, but found that the Commission had some authority under Section 706 of the Communications Act. The Commission has apparently undertaken the present Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to once again establish a regulatory regime in the absence of a market failure or a clear Congressional grant of authority.
The Internet is “free and open,” making the vast “network of networks” an integral engine for societal growth, participatory democracy and global commerce. Its healthy development came primarily through the lack of government regulation, not because of it. Although the Court seems to have offered the FCC a very narrow pathway to impose some form of Net Neutrality regulation on the Internet, nothing demands that the FCC go forward with its present plans.
Sadly, the discussion on Net Neutrality has turned away from the subject of what the vast majority of American consumers actually want and need, and is now focused almost entirely on the demands of a minority of political activists. These political activists have argued for a decade that in the absence of immediate and pervasive federal regulation the broadband Internet will be destroyed by the very companies supplying it. Given the tremendous and continued organic growth of the ecosystem, this radical viewpoint is counterfactual on its face.
Over the past decade, Americans have witnessed in real time, under the rigors of the real-world, the real benefits of a minimal policy framework, which has enabled the Internet’s edge, core and end-users to simultaneously thrive and prosper. To this end, government involvement in the Internet should continue to follow that “light touch” regulatory path. Absent clear evidence of a market failure or demonstrable consumer harm, network management decisions should remain in the hands of the network engineers who are the real-world experts in charge of its many parts, and the free economy which has nimbly and generously financed its development. If network management were to end up looking like government-controlled phone-service infrastructure, the expertise offered by the engineers and the innovation offered by the free economy would be greatly diminished, and producers and consumers would both suffer harm.
The FCC should therefore avoid issuing new Net Neutrality regulations at this time. Instead, we urge the Commission to wait for Congress’ guidance before proceeding further. Regardless of the DC Circuit’s ruling, it would be wholly inappropriate for unelected FCC Commissioners – some of whom could be influenced in no small measure by the demands of a non-expert political faction – to step into the breach and create a massive new regulatory regime which will have profound effects not only on the communications industry itself, but also on virtually every aspect of our society and economy. [click to continue…]