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Net Neutrality Is Gone – So What?

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By James Lint
Faculty Member, School of Business, American Military University
Senior Editor for
 InCyberDefense and Contributor, In Homeland Security

Net neutrality rules were instituted during the Obama administration in 2015. As such, they did not have a long history and were viewed by many in the industry as unnecessary regulations that could slow innovation.

The original 2015 net neutrality created by a Democrat-led Federal Communications Commission is a thing of the past. The rules were swept away on Thursday by a 3-2 party line vote of the current FCC commissioners.

What Is Net Neutrality?

ABC News described net neutrality as “the principle that Internet service providers (ISPs) treat all content equally and not give preference to some digital content providers. That means the consumer can load every website, app, video, .gif, etc., equally, regardless of where the content is hosted. For example, an ISP may not charge more for sites that stream movies or promote a specific agenda. This is also referred to as the open Internet.”

The 2015 law classified consumer broadband service as a public utility akin to the electric, water and natural gas services we pay for each month.

The Impact of Net Neutrality

Have you ever tried to change your water company? How many companies sell electricity in your community? Public utilities often have no competition, making them monopolies. How often have you seen a public utility lower its fees? Without competition, why would they?

Monopolies are not viewed as enhancing capitalism and competition in the marketplace. Competition can self-regulate the industry. For example, if Company “A” creates an slower Internet for a movie company, or prevents an innovation, Companies “B” and “C” will have an opportunity to offer the service that Company “A” failed to provide.

If ISP Company “A” did not allow you to visit a website, you might be able to go to a different ISP company. At one time, web browser companies tried to make you use their search engine. An example of this was the fight for eyeballs between Microsoft Bing and Google Search.

Now, you can use Bing in Google Chrome and Google Search in Microsoft Internet Explorer browsers. This is an example of competition making companies bend to the public will.

Proponents of net neutrality, however, say the Thursday’s vote will “open the door for ISPs to charge more to some big broadband users, say Netflix or YouTube, which could pass those increased costs to their subscribers,” USA Today reported.

Politics Stoked the Net Neutrality Controversy

Politics is at the bottom of this controversy. Why are people surprised when the new party in power changes the rules? With minimal analysis, it is easy to see the two sides do not like each other’s position. There is little surprise that a new administration would repeal the rules of the previous administration.

One of the key questions raised by the 2015 net neutrality regulations was why were they needed in the first place? Were the ISP companies slowing the Internet? The regulations increased rules and made it difficult for new ISP companies to enter the market place.

“Ajit Pai, the FCC chairman appointed by President Trump, has framed the repeal as getting the government to ‘stop micromanaging the Internet,’” CNN Tech said.

However, FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, a Democrat, said prior to the vote that Republicans were “handing the keys to the Internet” to a “handful of multi-billion dollar corporations.”

The Future Fight Will Be in the Courts

The media are reporting that the Thursday vote has set up a court fight. In fact, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said he’ll “lead a multistate lawsuit to stop the Federal Communications Commission’s rollback of rules that guaranteed equal access to the Internet.”

Most of the time, we consider a decision by an entity such as the FCC to be the final word. However, in this case, those who favor maintaining the net neutrality regulations want the FCC decision reversed through the courts system. But what does a decision by an oversight panel such as the FCC mean if it can be overturned in the courts without finding any illegalities?

Proponents of fewer regulations say doing away with net neutrality will allow for more growth in an industry that is often leading innovation. There is little doubt this political and economic policy battle, based on contentious hearings, will continue to play out.

Who Will Be the Big Companies of the Future?

No one can predict where innovation will lead us. Thirty years ago, who could have imagined Alphabet, Facebook, Amazon or Microsoft? Letting innovation move forward, and the market to control good and bad innovation, will weed out companies we used to know such as MySpace, AOL, AltaVista and Netscape.

Without the regulations of the net neutrality laws, innovation can flourish, making it easier for new companies to enter the marketplace.

No one knows the names of the future Apple and Google that will be in the marketplace in 30 years. If we did, many of us would be buying that stock today, which would ensure our family’s prosperity for many more decades. In the meantime, free of cumbersome rules, companies in the ISP marketplace can increase competition and lower the fees we pay for services.

Get started on your cybersecurity degree at American Military University.

About the Author

James R. Lint recently retired as the (GG-15) civilian director for intelligence and security, G2, U.S. Army Communications Electronics Command. He is an adjunct professor at AMU. James has been involved in cyberespionage events from just after the turn of the century in Korea supporting 1st Signal Brigade to the DHS Office of Intelligence and Analysis as the first government cyber intelligence analyst. He has 38 years of experience in military intelligence with the U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Army, government contracting and civil service.

Additionally, James started the Lint Center for National Security Studies, a nonprofit charity that recently awarded its 49th scholarship for national security students and professionals. James was also elected as the 2015 national vice president for the Military Intelligence Corps Association. He has also served in the Department of Energy’s S&S Security Office after his active military career in the Marine Corps for seven years and 14 years in the Army. His military assignments include South Korea, Germany and Cuba, in addition to numerous CONUS locations. In 2017, he was appointed to the position of Adjutant for The American Legion, China Post 1. James has authored a book published in 2013, “Leadership and Management Lessons Learned,” a book published in 2016 “8 Eyes on Korea, A Travel Perspective of Seoul, Korea,” and a new book in 2017 Secrets to Getting a Federal Government Job.”