How regulating the internet preserves Americans' freedom

[Commentary] It's hard to know what is sadder — that the Tribune’s Editorial Board believes that cat videos are the best thing about the internet or that it picks the interests of fat-cat internet service providers over its readers. Net neutrality is not “a new concept promulgated by the Obama administration,” but a consumer protection concern that dates back at least as far as the George W. Bush administration when then-Federal Communications Commission Chairman Michael Powell outlined four “internet freedoms”:

  1. Consumers should have access to their choice of legal content.
  2. Consumers should be able to run applications of their choice.
  3. Consumers should be permitted to attach any devices they choose to the connection in their homes.
  4. Consumers should receive meaningful information regarding their service plans.

In 2015, the FCC did craft court-approved rules that prevent the companies that provide internet service and own content from interfering with their subscribers’ access or from favoring some internet traffic in exchange for consideration of any kind. Internet service providers are also banned from giving priority to content and services of their affiliates. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai is now proposing to completely eliminate those rules. And it’s not just cute cat videos that are at stake. It’s 21st century education and health services, economic growth, employment, and civic participation. The current net neutrality rules are the law of the land. The changes the Tribune endorses will take away current protections for consumers and innovators. I would say this deregulation is a cat-and-mouse game. But, for us mice, there’s no escape. 

[Adriannee B. Furniss is the executive director of the Benton Foundation]


How regulating the internet preserves Americans' freedom