Net Neutrality: Where do we go from here?
By Jonathan Spalter
Three things you can count on: death, taxes and Washington’s seemingly endless ping pong of a debate over net neutrality.
It has been nearly two years since the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted to repeal the old-school regulations that classified today’s internet like a Depression-era utility.
This was a decision, we were told, that was so ‘radical’ it would usher in a dark era of anti-consumer and anti-competitive practices… that would represent… nothing short of a fundamental change in the internet as we knew it… forever.
It has not happened.
Just last week, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed, upholding the 2017 net neutrality framework and bolstering confidence that today’s open internet is working just fine.
The court got it right and affirmed what anyone who has been paying attention to America’s net neutrality saga knows to be true: not only is the internet open, internet service providers are investing to bring users the content and connectivity they want.
Actually, since the repeal of those heavy-handed net neutrality rules, average internet speeds have risen 40 percent. And last year, industry investment in American broadband networks was up $3 billion.
The fact is the FCC’s 2017 order restored the smarter, more nimble, pro-consumer and bipartisan policy framework that successfully guided the internet through 20 years of openness and extraordinary growth.
Translation: it is working.
Unfortunately, some will view this ruling as cracking the door a bit for individual states to implement their own net neutrality laws. Some already have, including California and Vermont (though they remain on hold pending further court action). The reality: it is almost certain state laws will be deemed in conflict with the federal framework upheld by the D.C. Circuit.
So, where do we go from here?
The answer, alas, is back in Washington. Only Congress can definitively end this regulatory rinse and repeat cycle and end the potential for a 50-state patchwork that threatens service for customers and will hamper innovation and community investment.
There is reason for some optimism. We have an active, bipartisan net neutrality working group in the Senate and bipartisan support in the House calling for a similar meeting of the minds.
They aren’t looking backward, and neither are we.
For our part, we remain opposed to practices like blocking, throttling and anti-competitive paid-prioritization — none of which has taken place since the FCC’s 2017 order took effect.
The nation’s broadband providers are proud of our contributions to American connectivity and digital leadership, and our commitment to the families, communities and enterprises we serve.
Here’s an idea: Congress should close the books on this divisive issue (once and for all) with a straightforward, enforceable, modern regulatory open internet framework and set the stage for the next generation of digital leadership.
Jonathan Spalter is president and CEO of USTelecom — The Broadband Association.