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This article was cowritten with AFP Regulatory Policy Analyst Andrew Gilstrap.
Once again, officials in Washington are attempting to save Americans from a problem only they seem to have noticed.
Last week, Federal Communications Commission Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel proposed re-establishing her authority over broadband internet service providers, often referred to as net neutrality.
While some have argued that the “internet could end as we know it” without net neutrality, this is hardly the case. The internet operated just fine without this regulatory burden up until 2015. Following just two years of implementation, it was ultimately removed in 2017 without major incident.
However, during those two years the U.S. did see broadband investments slow by more than $5.5 billion dollars. When net neutrality was repealed, internet providers quickly started providing Americans with faster speeds and lower prices.
Bringing back net neutrality would hinder this positive trend.
We don’t need to look far to see how heavy-handed regulation can weaken the internet infrastructure we take for granted. The European Union implemented its own version of net neutrality in 2015, and the results have been less than desirable.
At points during the COVID pandemic, as many Europeans sheltered in their homes, EU internet regulators began requesting that companies like YouTube and Netflix downgrade their streaming quality to prevent a broader collapse of the EU’s internet.
On the other hand, American networks held up well during the COVID pandemic. Despite increased demand for internet, they began offering free service, unlimited monthly data, and faster speeds to help low-income Americans who were working and learning remotely.
On the list of topics that Americans are worried about, fixing an internet that isn’t broken doesn’t even register. The last thing the FCC should be doing is relitigating net neutrality debates, something even two former Obama administration officials recognized would be a mistake.
The FCC has more pressing issues to tackle, such as continuing its work closing the digital divide and working with Congress to restore its Spectrum Auction authority. Americans deserve and expect better from their regulators than wasting precious staff resources and time working on political wish list agenda items.
Americans for Prosperity has opposed efforts to restore net neutrality rules. While we support efforts to prevent blocking, throttling and other deceptive practices by telecommunications companies, net neutrality rules are overreaching and will leave Americans worse off due to hindered investment and innovation.
The FCC’s attempt to revive this bad idea is creating the very situation we warned about, where net neutrality is a ping pong issue between commissions from administration to administration.
It is critical to focus on making it as easy as humanly possible to connect Americans to the internet. By removing barriers to deploying broadband, we can more effectively achieve the goal of closing the digital divide.
Net neutrality is an expansive and burdensome government takeover of the internet acting as a solution in search of a problem. Congress must reject this partisan effort and protect the internet as we know it.
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