Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai formally announced his plan to kill net neutrality and other consumer protections today as he seeks to remove the classification of home and mobile internet service providers as utilities. Although we’ve been hearing about his intentions for months now, the announcement warrants a debunking of his reasoning for the move.
Ahead of a vote that’s slated to take place on December 14, Pai noted that “broadband network investment dropped more than 5.6 percent—the first time a decline has happened outside of a recession.” He also pointed to the FCC’s onerous rules as being to blame for slowing the introduction of new services, and older ones incurring additional expenses in their efforts to comply with them over the past two years.
But none of this addresses the problems consumers will face if net neutrality is wiped out.
Who in the US wants to pay differing fees for accessing different bundles of sites and online services? Which consumers are clamoring for their ISPs to be able to block and slow down traffic from sources that don’t pay them as much as larger competitors? It’s hard to imagine anyone would want that, and yet Pai is going on about the FCC protecting consumers “just as it did before 2015.”
It’s also worth noting that Pai isn’t the only one to have done the math on spends in broadband infrastructure; Free Press, a pro-net neutrality group, noted in a report (PDF) that investment in networks has gone up since the Title II classification order in 2015, and that, “not a single publicly traded US ISP ever told its investors (or the SEC) that Title II negatively impacted its own investments specifically.”
Regardless of whose numbers you care to follow, the truth is that the internet will not be as free and open in the US as it is now, once net neutrality guidelines are repealed. If Pai is genuinely concerned about consumer protection, he’d find other ways to smooth the path for ISPs’ growth, innovation and expansion to serve more people nationwide.