Five years ago, the internet ended. At least that’s what many predicted. As the FCC voted to end net neutrality rules in December 2017, voices from Washington to Silicon Valley and from Manhattan to Hollywood predicted digital doom.
Then net neutrality officially ended in June 2018, and, well … nothing happened. The internet got faster after net neutrality.
For better or worse, the internet kept chugging along just as it always had. The net neutrality fight was the craziest hysteria to hit Big Tech since the Y2K flop. Today, the Biden administration wants to bring it back.
Of course, none of the Chicken Littles apologized for getting it all so wrong. Instead, they moved on to the next moral panic. Against their dire predictions, the internet has grown even stronger since net neutrality rules were suspended. Fixed and mobile broadband speeds are way up, digital infrastructure has drastically improved, and consumers have more choice. It’s as if government regulation of the online world was completely unnecessary.
Net neutrality is one of those big government ideas that sounds great in theory but creates big problems in execution. The concept is that all traffic on the internet should be treated equally. Your broadband provider can’t block certain websites or slow down the applications you use. They also shouldn’t create “fast lanes” that force high-bandwidth services like Netflix or Hulu to pay an extra fee to deliver their content more quickly than the other guys.
To this end, the Obama administration reclassified broadband as a telecommunications service and subjected the industry to creaky regulations written back in 1934 to rein in Ma Bell. This being government, it took them 400 pages of legalese to accomplish this. As with most overreach, there were a lot of devils in those details.
By ending the rules five years ago, Pai simply cut the red tape and let the internet thrive as it did before Obama’s 2015 rules were enacted.
Just when you thought the debate was dead and buried, President Biden decided to turn back the clock. He wants D.C. bureaucrats to revert back to net neutrality — with a vengeance. This week, Democrats regained majority control of the FCC, and new chair Jessica Rosenworcel has demanded more regulation of the internet. She claims the 2018 repeal “put the agency on the wrong side of history, the wrong side of the law, and the wrong side of the public.” All nonsense, of course, but Rosenworcel insists removing net neutrality was “problematic” and “had a lot of downstream consequences.”
The only downstream consequence was making the internet faster, cheaper, and stronger. But don’t worry — the Biden administration plans to stop those improvements in their tracks. Rosenworcel’s most galling claim is that net neutrality is needed to “protect Americans’ freedom and their speech.” Perhaps she hasn’t noticed the main censor these days is the government itself.