FCC Could Mess Up Internet With 'Net Neutrality' Rules No One Needs

There's no evidence that service providers are cheating, so why act now?

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Today, there are some 121.2 million broadband Internet services lines in the United States but precious few instances where network operators supposedly violated the FCC's network neutrality principles. This is a good indication of the magnitude of any serious neutrality problem: It is infinitesimal compared with the number of broadband providers and customers. Perceived violations are met with nearly immediate and widespread public backlash through the very medium that is allegedly at risk: the free and open Internet.

The imposition of unnecessary rules is never cost free, and it is the consumer who will ultimately bear those costs—in the form of higher prices or less innovative offerings. We also know that regulatory regimes, like kudzu, grow quickly once planted and that the FCC's new network neutrality regime could soon grow to encumber Internet providers in the applications and search layer, such as Apple, Google, and others.

Lacking evidence that regulation is now necessary to combat either market failure or other consumer harms, the FCC is left to postulate a dystopian world without network neutrality rules. It claims that unless it acts now, we risk losing what we value most about the Internet. In other words, it creates what economists would call a "counterfactual."

But we don't need economic theory to tell us what a world without network neutrality rules would look like because we already live in that world. And in the real world, the fact is that the Internet ecosystem we have is functioning quite well to satisfy customer needs without the ministrations of the FCC. In fact, one might go so far as to say it functions as well as it does because of that.

Read why the FCC should act, by Andrew Jay Schwartzman of the Media Access Project.

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