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Why Title II Net Neutrality Defenders Fear a Pro-Consumer Ajit Pai FCC

Defenders of the previous FCC’s Title II Open Internet Order appear afraid to have a free and open discussion about how Title II net neutrality affects Americanconsumers.

Like a poker player’s “tell,” leading Title II net neutrality defenders tellingly resort first to ad hominem attacks in challenging the financial motives of most everyone that is making the pro-consumer case for overturning the previous FCC’s Open Internet order. 

Why are they leading with ad hominem attacks?

As most understand, ad hominem attacks are the refuge of those who know the facts are not on their side of the argument.

It is no secret that I freely and openly disclose that I am Chairman of NetCompetition, an e-forum that “promotes competitive Internet choices for consumers” and is supported by broadband interests; and that I am President of Precursor LLC, a consultancy that serves Fortune 500 companies.  

It is the height of irony that proponents of Title II net neutrality advocate for freedom of speech and for preemptive protections from discrimination, appear to advocate discriminating against the speech of those advocating for a free market competition of ideas, innovations, products, services, models, etc.

Why are defenders of the previous FCC’s Title II Open Internet order apparently panicking about having to publicly defend the order’s real effect on American consumers?

First, they did not consider that someday they might have to publicly defend their order without the official acclamation power of the White House and FCC bully pulpits.

And second, they know that the Title II Open Internet order’s main purpose was not about protecting consumers, but about protecting “edge providers” Google, Amazon, Facebook, Netflix, etc. from having to contribute their fair-usage-share of the cost of maintaining and expanding the Internet infrastructure that they use and profit from more than any other entity.   

The fulcrum point of whether the past or the current FCC is pro-consumer or not, is whether it starts with the premise that consumers-are-customers-with-options and thus benefit more from the choice, innovation, and walk-away-power of market competition, than they benefit from a central regulator micromanaging in advance what communications users should want, need, value, and get.

In 1996, Congress near-unanimously passed the bipartisan Telecom Act, which definitively decided that fulcrum question in determining that it was better for consumers going forward “to promote competition and reduce regulation.”

They were unequivocally right, given that the competition they unleashed supplanted regulated 1980s telephone and long distance calling with the competitive dynamism of consumers-as-customers choosing which wireless, broadband Internet access, and OTT services they want from a wide variety of technologies and business models, at a variety of speeds and prices.

As a result of Congress and the President choosing competition over regulation as national policy, American consumers have come to enjoy more choices, innovation, and walk-away-power as consumer-customers than users in any country in the world.

When the previous FCC majority decided in its 2015 Open Internet order to regress back to regulate the world’s most modern communications sector with the most obsolete and “strongest possible” utility regulation, it summarily rejected the most fundamental communications policy call in law today by having three unelected public servants override Congress’ overwhelmingly-bipartisan determination in law that competition better serves consumers than monopoly regulation.

What’s more pro-consumer? Empowering consumers-as-customers in a market to make their own choices among differentiated competitive alternatives? Or empowering regulators to take away users’ choices because Government knows better what all consumers should want and need without their input?

What’s more pro-consumer?  Empowering consumers-as-customers to decide how much speed, mobility and usage they want to pay for? Or FCC forcing consumers to pay higher broadband prices so the FCC can set a permanent price of zero for the companies that hog most of the nation’s downstream bandwidth usage: Netflix, Google-YouTube, Facebook and Amazon?

What’s more pro-consumer? Consumers having the same privacy protector, the FTC, covering all companies with the same privacy standards, expectations and enforcement? Or a new FCC privacy regulator, with an opposite and random consumer-privacy protection approach that only makes private information private for ISPs, but not for any other provider in the Internet ecosystem?

In sum, a Pai-FCC is pro-consumer because it starts from the fundamental premise that consumers are customers empowered to choose which communications options best serve their individual needs, wants, and means at any given time, and rejects the conceit of Big Regulation paternalism that FCC regulators somehow know better than customers what’s best for them.   

Scott Cleland served as deputy U.S. coordinator for international communications and information policy in the George H. W. Bush administration. He is president of Precursor LLC, an internetization consultancy for Fortune 500 companies, and chairman of NetCompetition, a pro-competition e-forum supported by broadband interests.

 

Q&A One Pager Debunking Net Neutrality Myths