The internet has created more wealth and increased human knowledge faster than any other invention in history. But if Democrats in Congress get their way, the government would throttle the 'net with unnecessary and harmful regulation.
House Democrats on fire to revive "net neutrality" on Wednesday passed the Save the Internet Act by a slim margin. Hopefully, it will now go to the Senate to die.
Net neutrality, the buzzphrase distracting from the finer points of the legislation, is the idea that internet service providers should not discriminate between communications based on user, content, website and other factors.
Last June, the FCC, led by Chairman Ajit Pai, rolled back Obama-era rules that prohibited blocking, throttling and paid prioritization, stating that the rules went beyond the FCC's role, hindered tech investment and prevented broadband expansion to rural areas.
All the while, lawmakers from both parties called for legislative action to ensure the internet remains safe and open.
But even if the Save the Internet Act passes through the Republican-controlled Senate, Donald Trump's advisers have said they will urge the president to veto the legislation.
Republican opposition to the bill is justified due to the inclusion of Title II, a law crafted to regulate utility monopolies in the 1930s, which would empower the Federal Communications Commission to enforce the restrictions the legislation would place on internet service providers such as Verizon and AT&T.
Lawmakers shouldn't hand over the reins of the internet to a government agency that could choose winners and losers.
Democrats say that without FCC control, there would be no one to enforce the new regulations. But a few costly lawsuits could easily set precedent and ensure tech companies fall in line.
If Congress wants to protect consumers without restricting innovation, it could simply outlaw blocking lawful content, prevent paid prioritization that creates fast lanes and slow lanes for users and require companies to stay transparent with consumers about how their network operates — without getting the FCC involved.
Michael Powell, president and CEO of NCTA (The Internet & Television Association), says legislation that includes Title II should be a nonstarter. He says more regulation requires more investment on the part of companies to comply.
Facebook and Microsoft have D.C. teams that lobby government and ensure their companies don't violate the law. A coder tapping out the next revolutionary platform in his or her basement doesn't.
Because of this, large established companies will always have the upper hand over small startups.
The internet moves and innovates quickly. Campuses built by now-defunct tech companies litter Silicon Valley and offer office space to new companies that could shape the culture of the 21st century.
"The internet is the only piece of innovative infrastructure that we have," Powell says.
Technological innovation relies on a safe and open internet, and Title II threatens that by putting too much power in the hands of the government.
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