Net neutrality and Title II reclassification could spell the death knell for the open, free and prosperous Internet which has become one of the key engines of the American economy.
Title II is an anachronism; a strict and controlling regulatory regime designed for old style copper-wire telephone networks developed during the Great Depression. At the center of the issue is the idea of net neutrality. Net neutrality is a set of federal rules requiring Internet service providers to allow equal access to all online content and applications regardless of the source. Providers may not favor or block any particular product, service, or Web site. Net neutrality has been controversial ever since it was first proposed.
Supporters of net neutrality proponents have argued absent neutrality laws, ISP’s would be able to created tiered high-speed access lanes on the Internet leaving the fastest connection for wealthiest customers while relegating lower income consumers to lower speed connections. There has been no indication this will happen. Prices have continued to remain stable even as the average speed of internet connections has continued to increase. Any company choosing to offer its customers reduced speeds compared to a higher tier would likely lose customers to more reasonable competitors. While the internet has never really been neutral, the best way to ensure fair service is to promote competition by reducing, not growing, regulation.
Net neutrality has strong negative effects on broadband development, blocking Internet service providers from managing the networks they spent billions of dollars to develop. When burdensome regulation blunts the profit incentive to build new networks, regulators should not be surprised when providers are reluctant to expand. This disincentive hurts both the telecom industry and consumers, who lose out on new products and services.
The imposition of net neutrality rules will effect far more than just the telecommunications industry, many industries require network diversity to thrive and grow. One industry that experts warn could be affected by net neutrality is telemedicine. Telemedicine is the use of information technology in the diagnosis, treatment, and monitoring of patients’ conditions, which can dramatically lower the costs of health care while increasing access for thousands of patients. Under net neutrality, these lifesaving technologies would be forced to compete for bandwidth with streaming downloads like YouTube and Netflix. Even popular services like VoIP and online gaming would be affected.
Another issue net neutrality advocates have missed is security, many security experts caution net neutrality policies would hinder the more powerful security software and network protections, leaving digital networks more open to hacking and other cyber threats.
The Internet has thrived due to its open and market-based nature. Imposing a vast new array of government regulations under Title II, like net neutrality, would stifle what has made the Internet one of the biggest growth sectors of the economy. To ensure the growth of our nation’s broadband infrastructure and the growth of the internet economy, any changes to how the internet and broadband is regulated needs to look away from outdated regulatory models and instead focus on policies which do not hinder innovation and growth.