Should Net Neutrality Be Restored? – Top 3 Pros and Cons

Last updated on: | Author: ProCon.org | MORE HEADLINES
Cite this page using APA, MLA, Chicago, and Turabian style guides

Source: Joel Gilbert, “Big Data Is No Substitute for Good Data,” apogee.net, Mar. 29, 2018

The net neutrality rules adopted in 2015 regulated the internet as a common carrier, the same category as telephone service, under Title II of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. [5] The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rules prevented internet service providers (ISPs) from blocking, slowing, prioritizing, or charging consumers extra money to access certain websites. For example, under net neutrality rules, Verizon could not speed up access to websites it owns, such as Yahoo and AOL, and could not slow down traffic, or charge extra fees, to other major websites like Google or YouTube. [4]

On Dec. 14, 2017, the FCC voted (3-2) to overturn those net neutrality rules and reclassified internet service as an information source, rather than a common carrier. [1][5]

Many state attorneys general filed suit against the FCC decision, and the US Senate voted (52-47) to approve a resolution to invalidate the decision. [6][25] Unless overturned by courts or legislative action, the FCC’s removal of net neutrality rules will be officially implemented on June 11, 2018. [26]

Proponents of net neutrality say it preserves free speech on the internet by preventing ISPs from blocking lawful online content. They also contend that ISPs should treat all internet traffic equally and be prevented from engaging in anti-competitive behavior such as slowing down or speeding up certain websites. In addition, they say that net neutrality protects consumers from being charged more to access certain websites, such as online video streaming services.

Opponents of net neutrality say that internet service should be free from heavy government regulation, and that the internet has evolved spectacularly over the last decades without net neutrality regulations. They contend that net neutrality lowers investment in needed internet infrastructure. In addition, they say ISPs should be allowed to charge extra fees to online content providers that use disproportionately large amounts of bandwidth, such as video streaming services.

 

 

Should Net Neutrality Be Restored?

Pro 1

Net neutrality preserves free speech on the internet by prohibiting internet service providers from blocking content.

ISPs may slow or block websites that disagree with the companies’ political viewpoints or interfere with their monetary interests. [2][7] FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel stated that the removal of net neutrality rules will give ISPs “extraordinary new power” and allow them “to censor online content.” [8] According to the 2014 D.C. Circuit court ruling, Verizon v. FCC, the power of ISPs to censor content is not “merely theoretical.” Before net neutrality was in place, instances of content censorship actually occurred, including two separate instances of broadband ISPs blocking access to voice over IP applications, and one instance of an ISP blocking an online payment service. [15] In 2014, President Obama stated that “an open Internet… has been one of the most significant democratizing influences the world has ever known,” and that if content is legal your ISP should not be allowed to block it. [33] The Electronic Freedom Foundation has argued that, “the meaningful exercise of our constitutional rights—including the freedoms of speech, assembly, and press—has become dependent on broadband Internet access.” This dependency makes net neutrality rules essential for a free society. [16]

Read More

Pro 2

Net neutrality protects consumers by preventing ISPs from speeding, slowing, or charging higher fees for select online content.

Allowing ISPs to speed or slow certain websites, or charge fees for fast lane access, may eventually trickle down to consumers in the form of higher internet costs. For example, a person who gets their internet service from Comcast could be charged extra fees to stream Netflix or Amazon (companies not owned by Comcast), while not being charged extra to stream NBC or Hulu (two companies that Comcast partially owns). [21] According to Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA), without net neutrality, ISPs could “cabel-ize” the internet, meaning that “instead of paying a flat price for access to use any app or service free of charge, companies could start bundling services into ‘social,’ ‘video,’ and so on,” and consumers will have to pay for it. [23] On Apr. 27, 2017, one day after FCC Chairman Ajit Pai announced the plan to eliminate net neutrality, Comcast (the largest US ISP) removed it’s pledge to not “prioritize internet traffic or create paid fast lanes” from its corporate website. [20][11]

Read More

Pro 3

Net neutrality promotes competition by providing a level playing field for new companies.

According to Internet Association President & CEO Michael Beckerman, “without net neutrality protections, startups would face discrimination from ISP owned or preferred content that’s granted a speed advantage through paid prioritization,” thus hurting competition and consumer choice. [18][29] When the FCC implemented net neutrality rules in 2015, it warned “that broadband providers hold all the tools necessary” to “degrade content, or disfavor the content that they don’t like.” [27] According to Ryan Singel, Fellow at the the Center for Internet and Society at Stanford Law School, without net neutrality “broadband providers will be allowed to charge all websites and services, including startups, simply to reach an ISP’s subscribers. That’s a huge threat to the low cost of starting a company, and it totally up-ends the economics of the internet.” [17] A group of over 1,000 startup companies, innovators, and investors signed a petition to the FCC stating that “the success of America’s startup ecosystem depends… on an open Internet—including enforceable netneutrality rules.” [19] Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai said net neutrality principles must be protected “for the next set of entrepreneurs, building their services and trying to reach users.” [24]

Read More

Con 1

Net neutrality regulations are unnecessary because the internet developed amazingly well in their absence.

Most large internet companies including Google (1998), Facebook (2004), YouTube (2005), and Twitter (2006) were started and grew to success without net neutrality regulations. According to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, “the internet wasn’t broken in 2015,” when net neutrality was implemented and “it certainly wasn’t heavy-handed government regulation” that was responsible for the “phenomenal development of the internet.” [9] As FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly states “periods without net neutrality rules were times of innovation and investment.” [12] According to economist John W. Mayo, the entire rationale for net neutrality ignores the “positive economic outcomes in the provision of internet services that resulted from twenty years of light-touch regulation.” [32] As economist Gerald R. Faulhaber argues: “we have had a decade of experience with broadband ISPs with little evidence of wrongdoing.” [3] A 2017 statement from the Internet & Television Association, signed by 21 large ISPs, stated they remain “committed to an open internet” and “will not block, throttle or otherwise impair your online activity,” once net neutrality regulations are removed. [14]

Read More

Con 2

Net neutrality created burdensome and overreaching regulations to govern the internet.

According to the bipartisan Telecommunications Act of 1996, “the Internet and other interactive computer services have flourished, to the benefit of all Americans, with a minimum of government regulation,” and it should be the policy of the United States “to preserve the vibrant and competitive free market… for the Internet and other interactive computer services unfettered by Federal or State regulation.” [32] In 2017, the FCC reported that neutrality rules imposed significant and “unnecessary” reporting burdens on ISPs to prove they were in compliance. For example, the ISP CenturyLink estimated that meeting the net neutrality rules created over 5,000 hours of extra paperwork, costing over $134,000 each year. [10] In addition to being burdensome for ISPs, net neutrality regulations exceed the FCC’s authority. According to the editors of the National Review, the net neutrality rules exceeded “the agency’s statutory mandate,” and “there is no title or provision in the Federal Communication Act that gives the agency a clear mandate to impose pricing and content-management rules on Internet providers, which is what net neutrality does.” [31]

Read More

Con 3

Net neutrality reduces investment in internet services resulting in less access and higher costs for consumers.

Between 2011 and 2015, when neutrality rules were being debated by the FCC, the mere threat of implementing them reduced ISPs investments in network upgrades by 20-30%, a $150-$200 billion reduction in investment. [13] During the years that net neutrality rules were in place (2015-2017), investment in broadband fell for the first time ever in a non-recession period. [10][28] According to AT&T, that “chilled investment in broadband,” threatened “to slow the delivery of broadband services to all Americans… particularly in rural America where broadband investment is needed the most.” [30] Net neutrality regulations also prevent ISPs from charging large content companies (such as video streaming services) additional fees to cover the costs of the massive bandwidth they use. Preventing such paid prioritization fees places the costs of building the additional capacity necessary to carry the content onto ISPs, and these costs will trickle down to consumers in the form of more expensive internet packages – which are paid by all, even those who don’t use the streaming services. [22]

Read More

Footnotes:

  1. Federal Communications Commission, “FCC Acts to Restore Internet Freedom,” fcc.gov, Dec. 14, 2017
  2. American Civil Liberties Union, “What Is Net Neutrality?,” aclu.org, Dec. 2017
  3. Gerald R. Faulhaber, “Economics of Net Neutrality: A Review,” Communications & Convergence Review, 2011
  4. Brian Fung, “The FCC Just Voted to Repeal Its Net Neutrality Rules, in a Sweeping Act of Deregulation,” washingtonpost.com, Dec. 14, 2017
  5. Steve Lohr, “Net Neutrality Repeal: What Could Happen and How It Could Affect You,” nytimes.com, Nov. 21, 2017
  6. David Shepardson, “21 States Sue to Keep Net Neutrality as Senate Democrats Reach 50 Votes,” reuters.com, Jan. 16, 2018
  7. Roni Jacobson, “Internet Censorship Is Advancing under Trump,” wired.com, Apr. 12, 2017
  8. Jessica Rosenworcel, “Dissenting Statement of Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel,” fcc.gov, Dec. 14, 2017
  9. Ajit Pai, “Oral Statement of Chairman Ajit Pai,” fcc.gov, Dec. 14, 2017
  10. Federal Communications Commission, “FCC Fact Sheet: Restoring Internet Freedom Declaratory Ruling, Report and Order – WC Docket No. 17-108,” apps.fcc.gov, Nov. 2, 2017
  11. Jon Brodkin, “Comcast Deleted Net Neutrality Pledge Same Day FCC Announced Repeal,” arstechnica.com, Nov. 29, 2017
  12. Michael O’Rielly, “Oral Statement of Commissioner Michael O’Reilly,” fcc.gov, Dec. 14, 2017
  13. George S. Ford, “Net Neutrality, Reclassification and Investment: A Counterfactual Analysis,” Perspectives, Apr. 25, 2017
  14. NCTA, “Reaffirming Our Commitment to an Open Internet,” ncta.com, May 17, 2017
  15. Verizon v. Federal Communications Commission, cadc.uscorts.gov, Jan. 14, 2014
  16. Electronic Freedom Foundation, “Comments of the Electronic Freedom Foundation on Notice of Proposed Rulemaking,” eff.org, July 17, 2017
  17. Ryan Singel, “Expect Fewer Great Startups if the FCC Kills Net Neutrality,” wired.com, Dec. 12, 2017
  18. Internet Association, “Internet Association Files With FCC and Calls For Net Neutrality Rules to Be Kept in Place,” internetassociation.org, July 17, 2017
  19. Startups for Net Neutrality, Letter to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, engine.is, Apr. 26, 2017
  20. Ajit Pai, “Remarks of FCC Chairman Ajit Pai at the Newseum: The Future of Internet Freedom,” fcc.gov, Apr. 26, 2017
  21. Steve Kovach, “The FCC Plans to Repeal Net Neutrality This Week – and It Could Ruin the Internet,” businessinsider.com, Dec. 10, 2017
  22. Jim Cicconi, “Who Should Pay for Netflix?,” attpublicpolicy.com, Mar. 21, 2014
  23. Anna G. Eshoo, “Net Neutrality Repeal Means You’re Going to Hate Your Cable Company Even More,” usatoday.com, Dec. 12, 2017
  24. Jordan Malter, “Google CEO: Net Neutrality ‘A Principle We All Need to Fight For,'” money.cnn.com, Jan. 24, 2018
  25. Bill Chappell and Susan Davis, “Senate Approves Overturning FCC’s Net Neutrality Repeal,” npr.org, May 16, 2018
  26. Erin Carson and Marguerite Reardon, “Net Neutrality Rules Will End June 11th with the FCC’s Final Say-So,” cnet.com, May 10, 2018
  27. Federal Communications Commission, “Report and Order on Remand, Declaratory Ruling, and Order,” transition.fcc.gov, Mar. 12, 2015
  28. Hal Singer, “Bad Bet by FCC Sparks Capital Flight from Broadband,” forbes.com, Mar. 2, 2017
  29. Internet Association, “Principles to Preserve & Protect an Open Internet,” internetassociation.org (accessed May 23, 2018)
  30. AT&T, “Open Internet,” about.att.com (accessed May 10, 2018)
  31. National Review, “Net Neutrality: Let Congress Decide if It’s Needed,” nationalreview.com, Nov. 11, 2017
  32. John W. Mayo, et al., “An Economic Perspective of Title II Regulation of the Internet,” cbpp.georgetown.edu, July 2017
  33. The White House Office of the Press Secretary, “Statement by the President on Net Neutrality,” obamawhitehouse.archives.gov, Nov. 10, 2014