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Yesterday the House Energy and Commerce Committee held a hearing entitled “Network Neutrality and Internet Regulation: Warranted or More Economic Harm than Good?” While most of the hearing was a thoughtful debate about the role of the federal government, a common theme sprung up. That common theme appeared to be that some opponents of Network Neutrality do not seem to understand the Internet and have not read up on the documented history of blocking and degrading of lawful content that has occurred on the Internet.
Take for example, the story illustrated by open Internet supporter Rep. Michael Doyle (D-PA) about how his daughter is a Pittsburgh Steelers and Pittsburgh Penguins fan and how the open Internet allows her to obtain the content she wanted (Pittsburgh Steelers and Pittsburgh Penguins games) wherever she wanted through a Slingbox (which has had blocking issues with AT&T). Later during the hearing Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-GA) challenged the assertion that a cop is needed on the beat by suggesting that “there is no history of crime on the beat,” though admitted that he “never heard of a Slingbox” but that it sounded “like a good innovation.” Perhaps if he had known what a Slingbox was and that it has had blocking issues, he would have a different opinion on having rules that prohibit the blocking of content to Slingbox customers.
Another example was when Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI) began his questions with “we all know the Internet regulation in your order regulates Internet Service Providers” but then points out that “companies like Google and Skype are not impacted by your order.” Declaring that the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Network Neutrality rules “regulates the Internet” and then acknowledging that web companies are not impacted by the order is quite the contradiction. If the FCC is not regulating websites, then how is it regulating the Internet? Are not websites and their associated content in fact the Internet? Does he think consumers turn on their computers, plug in their broadband connections, and then stare at a blank screen and call that the Internet? It is likely that he mixed up the earlier talking points against Network Neutrality by the telephone and cable companies (which called for total Internet regulation or no regulation at all) with the new talking points against Network Neutrality where it is Internet regulation despite support from AT&T and NCTA.
Lastly, Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) expressed his opposition to open Internet rules because it would be akin to the Department of Transportation (DoT) regulating flying cars. The thrust of his argument is that the FCC cannot predict the future of the Internet because DoT cannot predict what rules would be needed for flying cars. The obvious flaw in this argument is that the Internet is already here and that there is a documented history of problems at the FCC demonstrating the need for rules. He also points to last year’s “super majority” of Congress that opposes network neutrality, which is completely false.
Overall, the hearing demonstrated that some opponents of open Internet rules by the FCC have not followed the documented history of problems and appear to not know the Internet, which if that is the case would explain why they think rules would be unnecessary and that the Internet is probably a series of tubes. Following the hearing, congressional efforts to eliminate the FCC’s ability to protect consumers through the Congressional Review Act began and as I stated in a previous post, successful enactment of a CRA repeal of Network Neutrality will end an open Internet.
I encourage you to call your Members of Congress to educate them on why the open Internet is important to you and to ask them to oppose any attempts to repeal open Internet protections.