Supporters of Title II reclassification have embraced this misguided idea because they believe that this is the only way network neutrality can be enforced. Leaving aside the fact that codified network neutrality is a bad idea to begin with, Title II reclassification will in no way guarantee a prohibition on the so-called Internet “fast lanes” that have these advocates in hysterics.
These and other myths are dispelled at Don’t Break the Net, a new website created by a coalition of organizations seeking to call attention to the grievous consequences that could arise from Title II reclassification.
Instead Title II would give the Federal Communications Commission unprecedented control of the Internet as if it were a mid-20th century monopoly utility. More than 1 million comments were filed in early August response to the FCC’s notice of proposed rulemaking on greater Internet regulation—a great many voicing support.
With reply comments coming due September 15, the Don’t-Break-the-Net effort has become more intense as a cross-section of technology policymakers from across the political spectrum seek to raise awareness about how reclassification would represent dramatic a turnaround in two decades of bi-partisan agreement on keeping the Internet deregulated.
The presumptive “fast lane” prohibition—one of the drivers of the reclassification push—gets a particular shout-out. Reclassification would not ban fast lanes; it would just give the FCC power to choose who could get them and at what price, essentially allowing it to pick winners and losers based on political pull instead of market appeal. Even those who support network neutrality–Tim Wu, who first coined the term; Jeff Pulver, founder of Vonage, the VoIP phone company; and the Electronic Frontier Foundation—do not think regulatory reclassification is a good idea. The FCC’s 2010 National Broadband Plan, which itself proposed greater government involvement and management of the tech sector noted that reclassification would slow investment and innovation.
The site also punctures other suppositions including:
- Broadband should be a public utility
- Everyone agrees on the need for Title II
- Title II will help minorities and the underserved
- Title II will help startups
- Title II will encourage broadband competition
- Netflix is championing “real” net neutrality
As the site notes plainly and simply, Title II would put the FCC squarely in the middle of the Internet, alongside other federal agencies we’re supposed to trust to get things right–like the National Security Agency. Title II advocates assure us that the FCC will show restraint, using its new regulatory authority in a surgical way and only when specifically needed. This conveniently ignores the FCC’s own rationale for seeking Title II reclassification: a series of court decisions that scolded the FCC for going outside the regulatory boundaries that Congress drew in the Telecom Act. Like every federal agency, it wants to expand its jurisdiction.
Throughout this weak economic recovery, U.S. tech sector remains among the strongest. In the digital economy, creativity and innovation in everything from infrastructure, service, content and applications remains in the forefront. The inauguration a new era of stifling regulation is the surest way to crush this.