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Has The Net Neutrality Debate Already Been Decided?

Stan Ward

Stan Ward

August 8, 2017

One can tell that the Obama-era net neutrality rules are doomed from the tepid opposition’s response to the assault on them. The Democratic Party, with its feeble written reply, seems to acknowledge that net neutrality as it now exists is history, and is merely officially going on record in opposition. It can only be political posturing – any outrage is missing entirely.

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The Democrats’ email campaign and general hand-wringing has gained no traction. The supposed public outcry – some real, some robo-generated – has not been heard by the Republican-controlled FCC. Indeed, Republican Commissioner Michael O’Reilly stated that many of the millions of “comments are empty and devoid of any value, in my opinion.”

Thus the loyal opposition sees fit to throw up another smokescreen to try to get some purchase on the issue. In doing so, they detract from the good reasons for not dismantling net neutrality.

The net neutrality debate is a highly charged and partisan one. Back in 2015, President Obama, via FCC chairman Tom Wheeler, rammed through rule changes resulting from his own ideology and (I believe) the voices and deep pockets of people like Eric Schmidt (Google CEO and Obama confidant). Google and other internet companies were certainly not hindered by Obama’s net neutrality rules.

It only takes a stroke of President Trump’s pen to overturn the net neutrality rules. That’s because Obama eschewed congressional action when implementing them. He knew the Republican-controlled congress would never go along with him. Thus, two years later, Trump can reverse the rules with a simple decree. Elections have consequences.

The Democrats have accused the new FCC chairman, Ajit Pai, of doing President Trump’s bidding – of not being independent. As if Tom Wheeler wasn’t merely carrying Obama’s water! This is hardly a credible ploy by the Democrats. Nor is it a way to effectively fight against the prospective rules changes. They are playing to their base of supporters who, by the way, are in the minority. Yes, elections do have consequences.

The Democrats have tried to add weight to their protest by saying that Pai has skewed the figures in his favor. Does any politician or political party not do this? The Democrats claim that one of Pai’s key arguments against net neutrality is only a hypothetical. Pai’s main argument is that the current net neutrality rules stifle infrastructure spending by the big broadband providers, which will hinder future operations and innovation.

The Democrats expressed it this way:

“The Chairman seems to believe that his primary—and possibly only—consideration in this proceeding is whether the tens of billions of dollars that ISPs have invested in their network infrastructure is “substantially greater” than a hypothetical amount the companies would have spent without the 2015 Order. Specifically, Chairman Pai stated that to change his mind about undoing net neutrality, he would need to see in the record “an economic analysis that shows credibly that infrastructure investment is increased dramatically.”

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Even more incredibly, the Democrats floated the argument that the FCC’s own broadband data “is widely known to be faulty” and should be improved before the commission moves forward. This is despite the fact that the Obama Democrats controlled the FCC for eight years. To make this statement is to admit that they allowed “faulty” data on their watch for nearly a decade! The statement smacks of both arrogance and desperation. In my view, if this is what they’re offering to salvage the current net neutrality rules, that ship has already sailed.

Opinions are the writer’s own.

Image Credit: Bakhtiar Zein/Shutterstock.com