Last week, NCTA, the trade association for the industry formerly known as cable, posted this amazing graph and blog post showing that the "virtuous cycle" the Federal Communications Commission predicted would happen when it adopted the Open Internet rules (a.k.a. net neutrality) back in December 2010.
It’s safe to say we are most of us in an era of unpredictability. Take comfort, then, in this case study in predictability, for at the very least, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has so far been everything and done everything you could expect from someone who vowed to “take a weed whacker” to the open Internet. Since his ascension, Pai’s agenda has been one of systematic rollback of consumer safeguards, one by one by one, and the latest and greatest commenced at last Thursday’s Open Meeting vote to dismantle critical net neutrality protections.
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.