As we gear up to defend and protect the net neutrality rules, parties on both sides are speaking up. One particular group, small Internet Service Providers, claim that the Federal Communication Commission’s 2015 Open Internet Order has been a death sentence for them, hindering their ability to invest and compete in the market. These small ISPs have taken to advocating against net neutrality rules but there is something missing from their claims: substance.
The Federal Communications Commission’s Open Internet Order of 2015 finally put net neutrality rules on a firm legal basis, protecting consumers from the anti-competitive, anti-consumer schemes that monopolistic Internet Service Providers would otherwise subject them to.
In the days since Ajit Pai, the Federal Communications Commission Chairman under President Trump, announced his plan to reverse the wildly popular (and court-affirmed) Open Internet Order, there’s been a lot of strange rhetoric coming from Internet Service Providers. While celebrating the proposed death of the only net neutrality rules to prevail against ISP court challenges, these monopolistic, noncompetitive companies keep insisting they love net neutrality and have no intention of doing any of the things the net neutrality rules prohibit. They’re celebrating the death of the rules, insisting that the rules aren’t needed because they weren’t going to do any of those things anyway, so we should trust them.
In its 2015 Open Internet Order, the Federal Communications Commission reclassified broadband internet under Title II of the Communications Act, establishing broadband providers as common carriers under the same framework as our telephone networks. By embracing its Title II authority and creating clear, bright line rules against blocking and discrimination, the FCC enacted the strongest net neutrality rules in history.
Internet Service Providers and their allies sometimes act as though net neutrality advocates are picking on them for no good reason, as though we selected their industry out of a hat. But the internet access market is unique in several ways, which is precisely what justifies treating them as common carriers, who are obligated to offer a nondiscriminatory service on reasonable terms. Since net neutrality, which was thought to be a settled issue, has become unsettled again, it’s time to review some of the features of the broadband market that show why net neutrality rules are essential.