NOVEMBER 28, 2017
The Internet is the greatest free-market innovation in history. It’s allowed us to live, play, work, learn, and speak in ways that were inconceivable a generation ago. But it didn’t have to be that way. Its success is due in part to regulatory restraint. Democrats and Republicans decided in the 1990s that this new digital world wouldn’t be centrally planned like a slow-moving utility. Instead, they chose Internet freedom. The results speak for themselves.
Now, much has been said and written over the course of the last week about the plan to restore Internet freedom. But much of the discussion has brought more heat than light. So this afternoon, I’d like to cut through the hysteria and hot air and speak with you in plain terms about the plan. First, I’ll explain what it will do. Second, I’ll discuss why I’m advancing it. And third, I’ll respond to the main criticisms that have been leveled against it.
First: what will the plan do? When you cut through the legal terms and technical jargon, it’s very simple. The plan to restore Internet freedom will bring back the same legal framework that was governing the Internet three years ago today and that has governed the Internet for most of its existence. Let me repeat this point. The plan will bring back the same framework that governed the Internet for most of its existence.
If you’ve been reading some of the media coverage about the plan, this might be news to you. After all, returning to the legal framework for Internet regulation that was in place three years ago today doesn’t sound like “destroying the Internet” or “ending the Internet as we know it.” And it certainly isn’t good clickbait. But facts are stubborn things.
And here are some of those facts. Until 2015, the FCC treated high-speed Internet access as a lightly-regulated “information service” under Title I of the Communications Act. A few years ago, the Obama Administration instructed the FCC to change course. And it did, on a party-line vote in 2015; it classified Internet access as a heavily-regulated “telecommunications service” under Title II of the Communications Act. If the plan is adopted on December 14, we’ll simply reverse the FCC’s 2015 decision and go back to the pre-2015 Title I framework.
Now, I’m sure some of you out there are still thinking that there must be more to it than this. And I’ll confess that once the plan to restore Internet freedom is adopted, one thing will be different compared to three years ago. Consumers will be empowered by getting more information from Internet service providers (ISPs). My ISP transparency rule will be stronger than it was in 2014.