Archive

Posts Tagged ‘Net Neutrality’
May 31st, 2022 at 4:43 pm
Image of the Day: Advocates of Internet Regulation Falsely Claim Service Providers Forcing Consumers to “Pay More”
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Advocates of Obama-era internet service regulations that caused broadband investment to decline for the first time ever outside of an economic recession are at it again.  Even though U.S. internet service remarkably flourished amid the Covid pandemic while more heavily regulated Europe suffered, those who want to bring your internet under greater federal bureaucratic control are out with a preposterously defective poll suggesting that service providers are forcing consumers to “pay more” for inferior service.  Well, here’s a comparison of broadband price increases versus inflation among other critical consumer products since 2021, refusing that bizarre claim:

Broadband Prices Remain Moderated

Broadband Prices Versus Other Products

 

 

April 18th, 2022 at 9:54 am
Image of the Day: “Light Touch” Regulatory Policies Have Kept Broadband Prices Low
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As Americans express growing alarm over consumer price inflation that commenced in January 2021 under the Biden Administration and Pelosi/Schumer Congress (see here), it’s worth highlighting how critical broadband access on which our economy increasingly depends has diverged from that trend.  It’s also worth highlighting that stems from the fact that internet service has so far escaped Biden Administration regulatory attempts to reverse free-market progress achieved under former Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai:

December 1st, 2021 at 11:53 am
Former U.S. Attorney General Agrees: “Hyperpartisan Gigi Sohn Doesn’t Belong at the FCC”
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In our recent Liberty Update, CFIF sounded the alarm on Gigi Sohn, Joe Biden’s dangerously extremist nominee to the Federal Commission (FCC), noting that, “Ms. Sohn is simply too radical to be confirmed to the FCC at a time when Americans rely more than ever on a thriving internet service sector, and the Biden Administration has only itself to blame for its delay in nominating her.”

In today’s Wall Street Journal, former acting U.S. Attorney General Matthew Whitaker brilliantly echoes the growing consensus that Ms. Sohn is simply too radical in a commentary entitled “Hyperpartisan Gigi Sohn Doesn’t Belong on the FCC”:

In addition to her hyperpartisan social-media presence, Ms. Sohn has dubbed Fox News ‘state-sponsored propaganda’ and has urged the FCC to look into whether Sinclair Broadcast Group is ‘qualified to be a broadcast licensee at all.’  Set aside that Ms. Sohn is wrong on the facts — Fox is privately owned, not state-owned, and Sinclair has long proved its ability to be a broadcaster.  What is breathtaking is her belief that the FCC’s powers ought to be used to crack down on conservative speech.   Were the tables turned — had then-President Trump nominated an FCC candidate who endorsed a close look at MSNBC — the Twitter verse would be horrified about the politicization of the FCC.”

It’s important to highlight that opposition to Ms. Sohn isn’t simple, reflexive partisanship, since the Biden Administration could’ve nominated any number of qualified people who don’t pose the same threat to America’s flourishing communications and internet sector:

Other possible Democratic FCC nominees haven’t insulted Republicans on Twitter, nor have they insinuated that the government should suppress right-leaning views.  In her no-holds-barred partisanship, Ms. Sohn is a uniquely dangerous and utterly unqualified FCC nominee.  Her nomination should concern the press, no matter their politics…  Republicans accommodated the Biden administration’s decision to make Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel the commission’s chair (she had been serving as acting chair).  Despite some disagreements with her policy positions from Republicans, Ms. Rosenworcel is seen as an honest broker.  Ms. Sohn is a different matter.  Ideologues aren’t a good fit in a job like this.”

As Mr. Whitaker wisely concludes, Senate Republicans and moderate Democrats must flatly reject Ms. Sohn’s nomination, forcing the Biden administration to nominate someone who doesn’t pose this clear and present threat to free speech and the U.S. communications sector.

 

November 9th, 2021 at 3:52 pm
WSJ Agrees: Senate Must Reject Extremist Biden FCC Nominee Gigi Sohn
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In a recent Liberty Update we sounded the alarm on Joe Biden’s hasty nomination of extremist Gigi Sohn to sit on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), highlighting how she’s simply too radical to be confirmed to the FCC at a time when Americans rely more than ever on a thriving internet service sector that her agenda would undermine.

Today, The Wall Street Journal echoed that alarm and explained the myriad ways in which she would threaten one of the few sectors that has continued to flourish throughout the Covid pandemic:

 

She was a counselor to Obama FCC Chair Tom Wheeler and was a driving force behind the ‘net neutrality’ regulation that classified broadband providers as common carriers under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934…  The enormous regulatory uncertainty caused broadband investment to decline, though it picked up after the Trump FCC scrapped the rule.  Ms. Sohn supports making the Wheeler rule even more burdensome…

The FCC is currently split 2-2, and if Ms. Sohn is confirmed, Democrats will move quickly on the progressive agenda.  Mr. Biden has also renominated Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel to another term as agency Chair.  A source says Biden Administration officials wanted to name Ms. Sohn as Chair but worried that moderate Democratic Senators would then reject her nomination.

Ms. Sohn’s strident partisanship should disqualify her from serving as an officer of an independent agency with so much power to control the public airwaves.  There’s also a risk that the President could designate her as Chair after she’s confirmed, as he did with the radical Lina Khan on the Federal Trade Commission.”

 

Ms. Sohn is simply too radical to be confirmed to the FCC at a time when Americans rely more than ever on a thriving internet service sector.  The Biden Administration has only itself to blame for its delay in nominating Ms. Sohn, and The Wall Street Journal confirms the growing consensus that the U.S. Senate should reject her nomination and spare us the enormous risk she presents.

June 10th, 2020 at 9:41 am
Image of the Day: Obama “Net Neutrality” Regulation Cut Private Investment, Reversal Under FCC Chairman Pai Restored It
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As we’ve often noted, the Obama Administration’s zealous effort via its Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to regulate internet service as a “public utility” under the false label “Net Neutrality” was among its most egregious policy offenses.  Conversely, President Trump’s appointment of Ajit Pai as FCC Chairman and the ensuing effort to repeal the Obama Administration’s regulation, thereby returning federal “light touch” regulatory policy that prevailed from 1996 – 2015 when the internet flourished like no innovation in human history, was among his administration’s wisest policy successes.

Specifically, we’ve highlighted how, following the Obama Administration’s “Net Neutrality” regulation effort, private broadband investment actually fell for the first time outside of a recession, but also how investment surged when Chairman Pai commenced reversal that foolish move, which this image captures nicely:

“Net Neutrality” Regulation Harmed Investment, Reversal Boosted It

“Net Neutrality” may be a fashionable crusade among latenight comedians and far-left activists, but Americans shouldn’t be fooled.  Light regulation, not heavy-handed federal regulatory strangulation, benefits us all.

May 11th, 2020 at 10:36 am
Image of the Day: Majority Says Internet Better Left to Private Providers, Not Federal Bureaucrats
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CFIF continues to highlight how Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai’s “light touch” regulatory approach benefits Americans immensely in terms of internet service, particularly amid the ongoing coronavirus lockdown.  The left-leaning Pew Research Center offers an encouraging new survey in that regard, highlighting how large majorities agree that while internet service remains essential, it’s something better left to private internet providers than the federal government:

 

Majority Disfavors Federal Internet Control

Public Disfavors Federal Internet Control

 

May 1st, 2020 at 11:04 am
“Net Neutrality”: Former Clinton Official Defends FCC Chairman Pai’s Free-Market Approach to Internet
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We recently highlighted how the Trump Federal Communications Commission (FCC) under the leadership of Chairman Ajit Pai did Americans a favor in repealing the 2015 Obama FCC “Net Neutrality” regulation that treated internet service as a public utility.  That Obama FCC effort needlessly reversed the “light-touch” regulatory approach that prevailed from 1996 through 2015, through both Democratic and Republican administrations, and which had allowed the internet to become the most quickly transformative innovation in human history.  In contrast, after the Obama FCC “Net Neutrality” order, private broadband investment fell for the first time ever outside of a recession.

And now, amid the sudden coronavirus pandemic and lockdown, Americans can be grateful for Chairman Pai’s leadership on that issue because the U.S. has more smoothly accommodated the suddenly higher internet burdens than our European counterparts, who more broadly adhere to the heavy-regulatory Obama FCC “Net Neutrality” approach.  In that vein, former Clinton Administration Undersecretary of Commerce Ev Ehrlich emphasizes precisely that point in today’s Wall Street Journal:

I was Undersecretary of Commerce during the Clinton Administration when the Telecommunications Act of 1996 passed.  That law produced some of the best and most affordable broadband in the world.  Our networks are performing much better than those in Europe, Australia and India because we created a deregulatory regime to allow different technologies – cable, fiber, mobile – to compete against one another.  As a result, 95% of Americans today have high-speed broadband available and 80% have access to gigabit speeds.”

Bipartisan consensus is rare in today’s charged political culture, but it’s nice to see a former Clinton Administration official confirm the point – a “light-touch” regulatory approach to internet service has benefited America vis-a-vis the suffocating regulatory approach favored by leftist partisan activists, Europe and the Obama Administration.  For that we should also thank the current FCC under Chairman Pai.

 

April 12th, 2019 at 1:39 pm
House Democrats Revive Obama FCC’s Ruinous Effort to Regulate Internet
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What’s old is somehow new again on the political left.

Desperate for what they perceive as street cred, leftists continue to repackage failed policies as somehow novel, in a destructive race to claim the most extreme realms of the political continuum.

Merely three decades after it was consigned to the dustbin of failed ideas, socialism actually maintains renewed popularity on the left.  According to Gallup, a majority of Democrats no longer view capitalism favorably, but almost 60% view socialism positively.

People like Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D – New York) advocate a return to income tax rates not seen since President John F. Kennedy began cutting them.  Thirty-five years after Jeane Kirkpatrick delivered her famous 1984 Republican convention speech castigating those who “blame America first,” people like Representative Ilhan Omar (D – Minnesota) tweet, “We must confront that our nation was founded by genocide and we maintain global power through neocolonialism.”

Not to be outdone, Democrats in the House of Representatives have joined the fray by attempting to resuscitate one of the Obama Administration’s most foolish and demonstrably destructive agenda items – to begin regulating the internet as a public utility.

Think of it as socialism for the internet.  What could possibly go wrong?

Plenty, it turns out.

From 1996 through 2015, the internet flourished like no other innovation in human history, precisely because the federal government from the Clinton Administration forward employed a “light-touch” regulatory approach.  Just ask yourself what was “broken” about the internet that somehow cried out for a federal bureaucratic “fix” during that two-decade stretch of unprecedented innovation and transformation of our lives.

But like so many other realms of American economic and civic life, the Obama Administration decided in 2015 that the internet merited its trademark brand of hyper-regulation.  Specifically, its Federal Communications Commission (FCC) suddenly decided to regulate internet service as a “public utility” under statutes enacted in the 1930s for copper-wire telephone service.  In Orwellian fashion, the Obama Administration and its apologists throughout the media and entertainment industries labeled it “Net Neutrality,” when by definition federal commandeering of an entire industry and picking winners and losers via the business model it imposes is anything but “neutral.”

So how did the Obama FCC’s scheme work out?

Disastrously.  For the first time in history outside of a recession, private investment in network infrastructure by service providers actually declined.   By way of comparison, investment in wireless alone had increased almost 33% – from $25 billion to $33 billion – between 2010 and 2013, even amid the most sluggish cyclical economic “recovery” in history under the Obama Administration.  But in the first year alone following the Obama FCC’s bright idea to regulate the internet, investment declined by an astonishing $5.6 billion.

In other words, investment declined in just one year by almost the entire amount that wireless investment had increased from 2010 to 2013.

When the Trump Administration arrived, one of its first priorities under new FCC Chairman Ajit Pai was to reverse that destructive Obama Administration boondoggle.

Latenight comedians and leftists in media and politics attempted to convince Americans that the sky was falling, and that this would “break the internet.”  But as noted above, it was the Obama Administration’s 2015 effort that was breaking the internet, while the Trump FCC under Ajit Pai was merely restoring the light-touch regulatory approach that had allowed the internet to evolve and flourish from 1996 to 2015.

The results have been immediate and positive, as highlighted by a Recode piece entitled “U.S. Internet Speeds Rose Nearly 40 Percent This Year”:

The internet is getting faster, especially fixed broadband internet.  Broadband download speeds in the U.S. rose 35.8 percent and upload speeds are up 22 percent from last year, according to internet speed-test company Ookla in its latest U.S. broadband report.  The growth in speed is important as the internet undergirds more of our daily lives and the wider economy.  As internet service providers continue building out fiber networks around the country, expect speeds to increase…” 

 

But now, House Democrats have introduced legislation to return to the Obama Administration’s destructive internet regulation regime.  Perhaps airheaded latenight comedians like Jimmy Kimmel, Stephen Colbert and John Oliver find that prospect soothing, but nobody else should.

“The United States has turned the page on the failed broadband policies of the Obama Administration,” FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr announced this week.  “By getting government out of the way,” he added, “internet speeds are up 40%, the digital divide is closing across rural America, and the U.S. now has the world’s largest deployment of next-generation 5G networks.”  Carr continued, “There’s a lot of common ground on net neutrality, but this bill studiously avoids it.  It elevates the partisan politics of Title II over widely supported rules of the road, and would turn back the clock on the progress America is making,” he concluded.

Wise words.   We all want net neutrality, but heavy-handed federal regulation of internet service is precisely the opposite.   We’ve already witnessed the unwelcome consequences of that scheme, as well as the beneficial consequences of reversing it under the new FCC leadership.  House Democrats’ legislation must be swiftly rejected accordingly.

 

 

August 22nd, 2018 at 3:30 pm
ALERT: Urge Your Member of Congress Not to Become Pelosi’s Next Puppet on Internet Regulation
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Democrats in the House of Representatives – led by Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Rep. Mike Doyle (D-Pa.) – are pushing to reinstate Obama-era, big-government Title II regulations on the internet through a legislative procedure known as a Congressional Review Act (CRA). Now they are pressuring some Republicans to help them get to the 218 signatures needed to force a vote on the CRA.

The Pelosi-Doyle CRA is not about sound internet policy; it is a politically motived, partisan effort to restore a stifling “Mother-May-I” regulatory framework on the internet that has already proven to slow private investment in internet network infrastructure and cost well-paying jobs.

Call your representative in Congress now.  Tell her/him to not become Pelosi’s next puppet on internet regulation.  Ask her/him to oppose the Pelosi-Doyle CRA.

Make no mistake, Title II regulation is NOT “net neutrality.” Indeed, there is widespread agreement and support – Republicans, Democrats and stakeholders alike – for the core principles of “net neutrality.”

But instead of working on commonsense, bipartisan legislation that will truly protect those principles while at the same time enabling the internet to thrive, Pelosi, Doyle and others want to politicize the issue and are pushing for the internet to be regulated like a public utility under a bureaucratic framework that was crafted way back in the 1930s, well before the internet was ever invented.

Adding insult to injury, the Pelosi-Doyle CRA gives a free pass to big tech companies, like Facebook and others, for how they treat consumer privacy and data online – what most consumers really care about when using the internet.

Unfortunately, Pelosi and Doyle have managed to convince one Republican congressman thus far – Representative Mike Coffman (R – Colorado) – to sign their discharge petition and support the CRA.  And right now, they’re using Coffman’s support to pressure other Republicans to join their effort.

Call your representative in Congress now.  Tell her/him to not become Pelosi’s next puppet on internet regulation.  Ask her/him to oppose the Pelosi-Doyle CRA.

Congress has a golden opportunity to come together on commonsense legislation that holds all internet companies to the same standards and preserves the core principles of “net neutrality” without the hyper-regulatory approach of the CRA and Title II.

The Pelosi-Doyle CRA must be rejected. Please call your representative in Congress now.

May 18th, 2018 at 12:06 pm
Image of the Day: What Obama FCC Internet Regulation Did to U.S. Broadband Investment
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Inexplicably, the U.S. Senate this week narrowly moved to restore 2015 Obama Administration Federal Communications Commission (FCC) crony capitalist internet regulations.  Here’s the effect that Obama FCC regulation immediately had on mobile broadband investment.  It’s now the duty of the House of Representatives and the Trump Administration to kill this mindless Obama-era attempt to regulate the internet, and we encourage everyone to contact their Representatives and the White House to demand that action.

Neutering the Net

Neutering the Net

February 27th, 2018 at 11:06 am
Net Neutrality Déjà Vu
Today, “netroots” activists are holding yet another “Day of Action” to save their version of “net neutrality” (government overregulation via Title II). According to Battle for the Net, the goal of this internet-wide push is to “flood the Senate with messages in support of using the CRA.”  Here’s our question:  How many times are we going to see this issue be turned into political theatre?

The so-called consumer groups involved, along with certain media outlets and Members of Congress, scream every chance they get that the internet as we know it is in serious danger of ceasing to exist unless the Obama-era Title II regulatory stranglehold is restored never mind that the Title II utility-style regulatory scheme, not imposed until 2015, makes the internet weaker, not stronger.

At the end of the day, this entire fight is about how to enforce practical internet policy. With the imposition of Title II, the Obama-Wheeler FCC granted unprecedented government authority and mother-may-I control over the free marketplace, diminishing industry investments in the process.  The current FCC, under Chairman Ajit Pai’s leadership, rightly decided to restore sanity to internet policy, prioritizing free market principles and light-touch regulation the way it was practiced for decades under bipartisan administrations.

The light-touch approach is how the internet thrived and will continue to remain truly free and open. It’s also how to protect America’s position as a global innovation leader.

This latest effort by Senate Democrats to hit the reverse button and go back to the investment-killing Title II scheme via a Congressional Review Act (CRA) vote serves zero legitimate policy purpose. It’s nothing more than a political stunt. After all, if they truly wanted to get serious about cementing the principles of “net neutrality,” they would come to the table and work with Republicans on a sustainable legislative solution, something they have refused time and again to do.

December 5th, 2017 at 12:26 pm
Image of the Day: Leftist Net Neutrality Illogic
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This actually captures the illogic among those who advocate tighter federal government control over the internet fairly well:

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Net Neut Illogic

Net Neut Illogic

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November 16th, 2017 at 11:21 am
FCC Should Preempt Individual State Attempts to Regulate the Internet
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Among the many positive changes within the federal government since the end of the Obama Administration and the arrival of the Trump Administration, perhaps none surpass those brought by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) under new Chairman Ajit Pai.

And the most welcome and beneficial change undertaken by the new FCC is its action to rescind Obama FCC decisions to begin regulating the internet as a “public utility” under statutes passed in the 1930s for old-fashioned, copper-wire telephone service.  The Obama FCC’s action instantly began to stifle new broadband investment, and was subject to legal reversal.  The internet thrived for two decades under both the Clinton and Bush administrations precisely due to the federal government’s “light touch” regulatory policy, and there was simply no rational justification for reversing twenty years of success in the name of even more federal government regulation and crony capitalism.

As the new FCC approaches completion on restoring regulatory sanity to internet service, it’s important that it include a preemption against future state efforts to regulate the internet in the same way that the Obama FCC hoped to make permanent.  We at CFIF take a backseat to no one in terms of valuing America’s federalist system, and the ability of individual states to serve as “laboratories of democracy.”  But there’s an important limit, one that is specifically included in the text of the Constitution.  Namely, matters of interstate commerce.  Our Founding Fathers recognized, based upon  economic warfare that they’d witnessed under the Articles of Confederation, that individual states cannot act in ways that disrupt truly interstate commerce in ways that contravene federal policy.  Accordingly, the Constitution specifically and rightfully empowers the federal government to protect interstate commerce against destructive state interference.

And there are few, if any, sectors of our economy more “interstate” than the internet.  Indeed, the internet is interstate by its very nature.  Doug Brake of the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation summarized the logic well in a commentary this month:

National and regional networks should be subject to uniform rules to keep compliance costs low and reduce complexity.  To the extent the upcoming changes to net neutrality regulation see any changes in business practices, which would be more minor than many expect, a uniform policy that allows for broad scale would be an important benefit…   Network applications now depend on economies of scale independent of the individual state in which they are consumed.  Technological advances are simply erasing the importance of state and local boundaries.  It is in the national interest to give these technologies room to grow unimpeded by artificial borders.

As such, beyond simply declaring broadband an information service, the FCC should make clear that broadband policy is made at the national, not state, level.  Former Chairman Kennard put it well in a 1999 speech titled ‘The Unregulation of the Internet:  Laying a Competitive Course for the Future.’   There he laid out why it was ‘in the national interest that we have a national broadband policy … a de-regulatory approach, an approach that will let this nascent industry flourish.'”

That’s exactly right, and it’s no less true today than it was in 1999.  The internet needed room to grow then, and it needs room and regulatory predictability to continue growing as it plays a progressively important role in  our lives and globally competitive economy.

We cannot allow a spaghetti bowl of individual state regulations to inhibit future internet expansion and innovation, and the FCC should act to preempt that destructive possibility.

September 27th, 2017 at 12:02 pm
Net Neutrality “Day of Advocacy” – A Reality Check

Today, activist organizations, including Free Press, Public Knowledge and Fight for the Future, plan to descend upon Capitol Hill offices to underscore their disapproval of Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai’s proposed plan to repeal the Obama Administration’s 2015 “Open Internet Order” classifying Internet Service Providers (ISPs) as public utilities under Title II of the 1934 Communications Act.

In anticipation of their effort, the Center for Individual Freedom teamed up with the Taxpayers Protection Alliance to provide Congress with a “Reality Check” of key messaging and themes to expect from those groups as they visit with lawmakers.

Read the document here.

May 18th, 2017 at 12:35 pm
CFIF Applauds FCC Vote to Advance NPRM to Restore Internet Freedom
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ALEXANDRIA, VA – Today, the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) voted to advance a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) on the “Restoring Internet Freedom” proposal championed by Chairman Ajit Pai and Commisser Mike O’Reilly that would return federal internet regulatory policy to the light-touch approach that prevailed from the 1990s onward, until the Obama Administration FCC moved to reclassify the internet as a “public utility” in 2015.

In response, Center for Individual Freedom (“CFIF”) Senior Vice President of Legal and Public Affairs Timothy Lee issued the following statement:

“Beginning in the 1990s, the internet flourished and transformed our world like no innovation in history for a simple reason:  Administrations of both political parties over two decades, beginning with Clinton/Gore, wisely chose a ‘light touch’ regulatory approach to the internet.

“Then in 2015, the Obama Administration FCC suddenly and radically reversed two decades of bipartisan consensus by moving to reclassify internet service as a ‘public utility’ under laws enacted in 1934 to regulate old-fashioned copper-wire telephone service.

There was no justification for that sudden reversal, and it was not based upon evidence, law or logic.  The internet obviously wasn’t ‘broken’ or in need of heavy-handed federal regulatory ‘fix.’  It was merely a scheme to extend government control over yet another sector of our economy.

“Nor was reclassifying the internet as a ‘public utility’ something the American public supports.  A recent Morning Consult survey confirms that an overwhelming and bipartisan 78% of voters prefer little or no government regulation of the internet, with only 12% favoring a heavy-handed regulatory approach.  A broad 51% to 33% majority believes that the internet shouldn’t be regulated as a public utility, and a two-to-one majority agrees that regulating the internet as a utility slows innovation and decreases private tech investment.

“Unfortunately, the Obama Administration FCC’s decision to reclassify the internet as some sort of Depression-era ‘public utility’ had immediate negative consequences, confirming the public’s expectation.  Domestic broadband capital expenditures declined by 5.6%, or some $3.6 billion, which marked the first time that such investment declined outside of a recession during the internet era.  That applied to both large and small internet service providers.

“Proponents of heavy-handed internet regulation continue to employ irrational scare tactics and hyperbole in their effort to regulate the internet more heavily, but their claims are contradicted by straightforward history and logic.  All reasonable people agree that the internet should remain free and open, which was how the internet operated for two decades across administrations of both parties under the light-touch regulatory approach.

“Accordingly, today’s FCC vote simply advances the ball to restore the bipartisan, light-touch regulatory consensus that existed for more than two decades.  This is precisely the sort of common sense that is badly needed in Washington, and CFIF applauds FCC Chairman Pai and Commissioner O’Rielly for moving to restore the regulatory wisdom that the American public overwhelmingly prefers.”

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May 17th, 2017 at 11:41 am
Former FCC Commissioner: “The FCC Gets Set to Free Wireless”
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In today’s Wall Street Journal, former Federal Communications Commission (FCC) commissioner Robert McDowell offers a timely and instructive commentary entitled “The FCC Gets Set to Free Wireless,” in which he explains the important work by new FCC Chairman Ajit Pai:

The Federal Communications Commission this month is launching initiatives that will shape the fate of America’s wireless industry.  Last week it started to examine competition in the market, and this week it will propose taking Depression-era utility regulations off mobile broadband while protecting an open internet.  This is only the beginning.  The FCC is acting on a rare opportunity to correct its recent mistakes and restore the Clinton-era light-touch regulatory framework that will drive economic growth and job creation.”

As we at CFIF have detailed, the internet flourished over two decades like no other innovation in human history, precisely because of the light-touch regulatory approach started under Clinton as McDowell notes, and continued through the Bush Administration.  But in 2015, Obama’s FCC under former Chairman Tom Wheeler decided to “fix” an internet that wasn’t broken by regulating it as a “public service” under the 1930s copper-wire telephone laws that McDowell references.  As Chairman Pai recently noted, domestic broadband capital expenditures fell for the first time ever outside of a recession.

McDowell notes how the mobile industry experienced “an explosion of entrepreneurial brilliance,” incredible innovation in just a few short years, massive investment, falling consumer prices (25% in the past decade) and arrival of the app economy.  Importantly, he highlights that, “Three quarters of the companies in the global app economy are American.”  Unfortunately, the Obama FCC’s rush to commandeer yet another sector of the U.S. economy imposed an unnecessary threat to that innovation:

Yet since 2009, the FCC has ignored its own studies and refused to determine that the market is competitive. That would have contradicted the rationale for its regulation binge, but new political and market realities make a fresh start possible.”

Fortunately, new leadership under Chairman Pai offers the opportunity to correct that mistake before the harm intensifies:

The FCC should begin by liberating wireless from the heavy-handed rules of a 1934 law called Title II, which was created when phones were held in two hands.  This antiquated law imposes powerful economic regulations on the internet, chilling investment in broadband.  On Thursday the FCC will propose to unshackle the net from this millstone of a law.  This would restore the bipartisan light-touch policies that nurtured the burgeoning internet Americans enjoy today.”

It’s unfortunate that a federal bureaucracy decided in its wisdom that regulating the thriving internet as a “public utility” under a 1934 law was a good idea in the first instance.  But as McDowell cheerfully notes, the opportunity to prevent further harm and restore the innovation and investment that characterized internet service for over two decades is here.  For that we should thank Chairman Pai and support his common-sense restoration of regulatory sanity at the FCC.

May 12th, 2017 at 1:02 pm
Poll: Americans Overwhelmingly Favor FCC Chairman Pai’s “Light Touch” Internet Regulatory Approach
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Activists advocating heavy-handed internet regulation of the type pushed by the Obama-era Federal Communications Commission (FCC) pretend that they’re the ones crusading on behalf of everyday consumers.  The reality is that the internet flourished as no innovation in human history precisely because both the Clinton Administration and Bush Administration maintained a “light touch” regulatory stance from the FCC.

But then in 2015, the Obama Administration decided that it must “fix” an internet that wasn’t broken, through a narrow party-line FCC vote to regulate internet service as a “public utility” under 1930s laws enacted for copper-wire telephones.

The result:  internet infrastructure investment fell for the first time ever outside of an economic recession.

Fortunately, new FCC Chairman Ajit Pai is restoring common sense by returning internet regulation to the “light touch” approach that worked for two decades and under Clinton and Bush.

Now there’s more good news, highlighted by the good folks over at the Institute for Policy Innovation (IPI).  According to a new Morning Consult survey, Americans overwhelmingly favor a light-touch FCC regulatory approach toward internet service:

–  By an overwhelming 78% to 12% margin, voters support the government having little or no regulation of the internet, with 53% supporting a ‘light touch’ and 25% asserting that the government should not regulate the internet at all.

–  By an 18-point margin (51% versus 33%), voters say the internet should not be regulated as a public utility.

–  By a two-to-one margin, voters believe regulating the internet as a utility would slow innovation and decrease private tech investment.

–  Support for light-touch regulation is bipartisan, including 55% of Democrats, 52% of Republicans, and 52% of Independents.  Perhaps surprisingly, 21% of Democrats favor NO government regulation of the internet, along with 27% of Republicans and 26% of Independents.”

Chairman Pai is demonstrating admirable courage and leadership in restoring regulatory sanity at the FCC, and it’s always encouraging to confirm that the American electorate agrees with him.

July 7th, 2016 at 2:36 pm
Second Amendment Sit-Ins and Net Neutrality
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Timothy Lee, CFIF’s Senior Vice President for Legal and Public Affairs, discusses the recent U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit decision upholding the FCC’s net neutrality regulations, what those regulations could ultimately mean for consumers, and the Capitol Hill sit-ins and untruths offered by 2nd Amendment rights opponents.

Listen to the interview here.

June 14th, 2016 at 6:13 pm
Divided Court Allows FCC to Use Law Intended to Reduce Internet Regulation to Increase Internet Regulation
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Like most Americans, you probably had no idea that the Internet was somehow broken and in need of an Obama Administration “fix” via a Depression-era federal statute enacted for copper wire telephone technology.

And with good reason.  For two decades, America’s tech and Internet sectors have remained among the depressingly few areas of our economy that continued to flourish amid an era characterized by stagnating growth, employment and incomes.

Throughout the Obama tenure, however, his Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has attempted over and over to upend the “light touch” regulatory approach of both Democratic (Clinton) and Republican (Bush) administrations that allowed the Internet to flourish as it has.  Today, unfortunately, a sharply divided D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals finally affirmed the FCC’s most recent attempt to impose so-called “Net Neutrality” regulations that essentially equate to ObamaCare for the Internet.

As aptly summarized by Senior Circuit Judge Williams’s dissent, today’s decision allows FCC “use of an Act intended to ‘reduce regulation’ to instead increase regulation.”

Judge Williams cogently captured not only the legal illogic of the majority’s holding, but its real-world unintended consequences as well:

“The ultimate irony of the Commission’s unreasoned patchwork is that, refusing to inquire into competitive conditions, it shuns broadband service onto the legal track suited to natural monopolies.  Because that track provides  little economic space for new firms seeking market entry or relatively small firms seeking expansion through innovations in business models or in technology, the Commission’s decision has a decent chance of bringing about the conditions under which some (but by no means all) of its actions could be grounded – the prevalence of incurable monopoly.”

Fortunately, this doesn’t end the question.  The ruling will likely be appealed, and the FCC’s mismanagement can be corrected via Congressional action or new FCC leadership in a future presidential administration.

But beyond the specific issue in question, today’s unfortunate ruling illustrates again the importance of judicial branch appointments and composition as we approach the election of a president who will make those appointments.

use of an Act intended to “reduce regulation” to
instead increase regulation
May 31st, 2016 at 1:04 pm
Net “Neutrality”: Google Says Nondiscrimination for Me, But Not for Thee
Posted by Print

Surprise, surprise.  So Google, perhaps the leading proponent of so-called “Net Neutrality,” predictably doesn’t consider itself constrained by the same rules of nondiscrimination from which it seeks to benefit via government intervention:

Progressives have long argued that the federal government must protect the Internet from discrimination by treating service providers like Comcast as public utilities.  Now we learn that the Net doesn’t have to be neutral, as long as Google is the company targeting legal businesses that are politically unpopular.  Google recently announced in a blog post that the search engine would no longer run advertisements for payday loans with high interest rates and a 60-day repayment period.  ‘Ads for financial services are a particular area of vigilance given how core they are to people’s livelihood and well being,’ the company wrote.”

Moreover, Google’s hypocrisy is compounded by its crony capitalist angle:

Google’s timing is also curious, given that the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is finishing up a rule to wipe out the payday industry by cutting a lender’s ability to collect.  This political assault includes Justice Department investigations into banks that do business with payday lenders, which are also lawful outfits.  You don’t have to be a cynic to wonder if Google isn’t providing some cover for this political campaign:  the Obama Administration has certainly done a lot for Google.  The company’s top lobbyist visited the Obama White House 128 times as of October 2015 – more than counterparts at Comcast, Facebook, Amazon and Verizon combined.”

And then there’s its assault on intellectual property rights angle:

Last month the White House endorsed a Federal Communications Commission proposal that would allow Google to pirate television content, and last year the FCC exempted Google from its net-neutrality regulatory scheme.”

It’s just another illustration of the public policy, crony capitalist monstrosity that Net “Neutrality” is.  Whether by the judicial system or the political system, it must be put to an end.