Column: Pai right to halt net neutrality
The fervor over “net neutrality” is back, and the resistance’s familiar blend
of righteous indignation and paranoid hysteria now threatens Federal
Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai and his family, as stalkers at his
home accuse him of “murdering democracy.”
The sad irony is that in the name of protecting internet freedom, supporters of
net neutrality demand exactly the policy that would endanger it the most:
government control of internet service providers (ISPs.)
It’s almost a miracle that the internet has remained as free and unfettered of
government meddling as it has in our country, and because of that, the internet
is the wonderful thing we know today: a limitless source of information,
entertainment and commerce that gets faster every year.
Despite that, activists have demanded “net neutrality” laws since at least
2006. Congress never met their demands, but in 2015 the Democrat-controlled
FCC, acting without congressional authority, unilaterally imposed net
neutrality rules by decree. This is what Pai wants to reverse.
To be clear: the claim that ISPs are preparing to censor the internet and
discriminate against their customers is ridiculous, and disproven by the entire
history of the internet through 2015.
ISPs have nothing to gain and customers to lose by censoring content, which is
why they have never done so. ISPs are not monopolies, and the market gets more
competitive every year. We can receive internet service from phone lines, cable
lines, cellular networks, satellite dishes, and now fiber optic lines.
All of these companies compete to sell internet service, and they can’t collude
to censor content for the same reason airlines can’t collude to charge $1,000
for every plane ticket. We already have laws against anti-competition
The other argument for net neutrality is that ISPs might enter into bandwidth
agreements with content providers, where for example YouTube could pay Comcast
for guaranteed transfer speeds. Even in this far-fetched scenario, there’s no
harm, since this would lower the ISPs cost to consumers.
The notion that ISPs are threatening to take away the internet is a bogeyman
creating public outcry for government control of ISPs, and there is the real
Other countries don’t enjoy the free internet that Americans have, and in every
case the government is the source of censorship. Without the protection of our
First and Fourth Amendments, governments monitor and prosecute citizens for
expressing illegal opinions, ban websites, and force service providers to
assist them in doing so. And it’s not just North Korea; the internet is
massively regulated in Britain.
If the government intended to take over the internet in America, network
neutrality rules would be the first step to opening that legal doorway.
Thankfully, Congress has never provided it the authority to do so.
Everyone agrees that the internet should remain as free and open as it can be,
but those clamoring for its regulation need to study history and learn to
cherish the lack of government control that has kept the internet free to this
Pai’s courageous effort to rescind the 2015 network neutrality rule would turn
around a dangerous trend started two years ago. He should be praised, not
vilified, for standing up for freedom and the free exchange of ideas on the
Internet we have always enjoyed.
Rep. John Reilly, R-Oakland, represents Michigan’s 46th House district.