Restoring Internet Freedom Proposal a Win for Consumers, Society, Innovation, Free Speech

by Mike Wendy on November 22, 2017

Yesterday, FCC chairman Ajit Pai began circulating among his other Commissioners a draft of the pending Restoring Internet Freedom rule to be voted on in December. Though details are few, this is what we know from the Chairman’s own words:

“…Under my proposal, the federal government will stop micromanaging the Internet. Instead, the FCC would simply require Internet service providers to be transparent about their practices so that consumers can buy the service plan that’s best for them and entrepreneurs and other small businesses can have the technical information they need to innovate…[M]y proposal will [also] put the federal government’s most experienced privacy cop, the FTC, back on the beat to protect consumers’ online privacy…returning to the light-touch, market-based framework that unleashed the digital revolution and benefited consumers here and around the world…”

This means that Obama-created, Title II-driven Net Neutrality rules are over. They were in-apt from the start, and since their enactment over two years ago, they have actually resulted in less investment to build-out broadband networks – the exact opposite of the rules’ primary goal.

From here on forward, light-touch regulation will now (again) make sure that Internet behaviors – including those of Silicon Valley – benefit Americans.

Hooray! This development is a huge win for consumers, society, innovation and free speech.

In unshackling the Internet from the prior Commission’s utility regulations for the Internet, the FCC has placed its faith in the advance of technology, open competition, industry best practices, consumer-oriented transparency tools and present federal law to police the Internet ecosystem. In doing so, it will allow welfare-enhancing tactics – such as reasonable paid priority – to deliver life-bettering advancements to the marketplace. Further, by removing confiscatory Title II regulation, new investment will flood the ecosystem, hastening innovative services – such as wireless 5G and the Internet of Things – and boosting ubiquitous, affordable broadband access for all.

Finally, the Chairman’s draft removes Uncle Sam’s boot from the the throat of communicators, excising government from Internet content regulation. At its heart, regulatory Net Neutrality was always-ever a “media reform” tactic designed to shepherd “approved content” to the masses for their consumption. The law, however, is a prior restraint on speech, denying the free association of communicators to work together in mutually beneficial ways to deliver their communications offerings to customers as they see fit. Regulatory Net Neutrality essentially grafts 80 years of broadcast censorship onto the Internet, limiting who can speak and how. Quite simply, it is not Uncle Sam’s place to make sure Americans receive “better” information; that role has been barred by the First Amendment. Chairman Pai’s proposal accords with constitutional constraints on government which protect the individual liberties of Americans. This will foster free speech, not deter it.

This is all good. That said, one hopes that the FCC’s work to restore Internet freedom will remind Congress of the need to end the Chevron ping-pong game which brought us here, and thus expeditiously act to create a lasting solution to further guide the development of the Internet.

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