The FCC is tearing down Net Neutrality, But Should It?

Net Neutrality is one of the most misleadingly named things to come out of DC in a long time. It actually has nothing to do with openness on the Internet at all! To understand what it does, you have to look past the name and into the technical details.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai knows what’s lurking in there, and that’s why he’s tearing the thing down!

The FCC has been trying to grab power for years. Over and over again they tried to apply the same regulation to the Internet that they get to apply to phone companies. And we all know how well the phone companies work. Well, the Congress actually had the sense to keep FCC from running the Internet the way it runs phone companies. It passed the Telecommunications Act, which orders FCC to treat telecommunications services differently from how it treats phone companies.

As a result of the limits placed on FCC, every time it tried to take over the Internet, it lost in court. Finally tired of losing, Obama’s FCC tried a drastic step in the name of Net Neutrality. It declared that it was “reclassifying” ISPs to fall under Title II of the Communications Act. It was basically doing an end run around the law, by ruling that the new law didn’t apply, but rather the older law applied instead. This gave FCC a regulatory free hand.

The reason they could do this, and get away with it in court, is that the courts give broad deference to regulators that interpret the laws that are instead supposed to govern them. This is known as the “Chevron deference,” named for the court case that established it: Chevron USA vs Natural Resources Defense Council.

It’s on the Congress to close this loophole, but for now, Ajit Pai is going to reverse that reclassification, and return the Internet to the regulatory light touch that let it flourish.

Obama’s FCC harmed us. Reclassification deterred ISPs from making investments into building fiber optic Internet into people’s homes. Since it happened people have lamented this, without understanding why the build out stopped.

Government wasn’t the solution to our problem. Government was the problem, and Ajit Pai is right to roll back this terrible mistake.