It was a very dark day, at least in the minds and hearts of all of those opposing the Federal Communications Commission’s controversial Restoring Internet Freedom Order, which passed by a 3-2 vote. This proceeding over-turned the Democrat-controlled FCC’s 2015 Open Internet Order, which classified ISPs – for the first time — as more heavily regulated Title II telecommunications carriers.
After more than 23 million comments – a huge number from foreign countries and bot accounts, with phony email addresses, fake names, death threats and racial slurs — three weeks of contentious and often ugly public debate, and despicable personal attacks on Chairman Ajit Pai, passage of the Restoring Internet Freedom Order returns ISPs to more lightly regulated Title I status. They had been so classified for almost 20 years before the 2015 Obama-controlled FCC decided to put them under more stringent FCC oversight and control.
In the words of Chairman Pai, “Instead of saddling the internet with heavy-handed regulations, we will work together (with the Federal Trade Commission) to take targeted action against bad actors. This approach protected a free and open internet for many years prior to the FCC’s 2015 Title II Order and it will once again following the adoption of the Restoring Internet Freedom Order.” The FCC and the FTC have agreed to jointly coordinate complaints, investigations, and enforcement actions under the order.
Once the order is finalized, it will likely face both Congressional and court challenges. Some in Congress – mostly Democrats — have expressed concern over its lighter regulatory approach. But with Republican majorities in both the House and Senate, repeal is extremely unlikely. Concerning possible legal action, most experts believe that prior litigation reinforces the FCC’s authority to classify broadband providers as it sees fit, so long as it follows appropriate procedures.
Despite the fearsome, dire, and alarmist predictions of those arguing to retain the previous, heavy-handed regulatory model, we feel that the Restoring Internet Freedom Order will NOT destroy the internet as it has long and successfully existed, or foster anti-competitive behavior, or promote huge rate hikes, or silence minority online voices.
Rather, because lighter regulation is almost always better, we think that this order will promote increased competition, innovation, growth, investment and new and improved services.