Much has happened regarding Internet policy over the past two days, but you probably haven't noticed since not much has likely changed the way you surf the Net. It started yesterday, when a U.S. Appeals Court struck down the Federal Communication Commission’s ridiculous claim that it had the authority to regulate Internet traffic, noting the FCC was attempting to “shatter” the bounds of its legal limits.
This sent proponents of so-called Net Neutrality up in arms over their inability to unilaterally supersede longstanding legal precedent that Internet regulation is off limits for government. The organization Free Press went so far to declare: “The courts can’t take away our Internet.” But, 1) no one is trying to “take away” your Internet, including the courts, and 2) the courts can certainly and accurately rule that the FCC has no legal standing to regulate your Internet, or mine for that matter. It’s called checks and balances.
So now, these groups are arguing that the Internet should be “reclassified.” Currently, the Internet falls under Title I of the Communications Act, which means the FCC can’t really touch it (something both the FCC itself and U.S. Supreme Court have historically agreed on). So, Net Neutrality proponents are attempting to claim that the Internet should be placed under Title II, which gives them extremely broad authority to regulate. The organization Public Knowledge proposed this back in January stating they were "uncertain" about the FCC's authority to push a heavy regulatory agenda. Even worse, these groups are somehow trying to claim that it should go back to the way it used to be, as though the courts tossed out a longstanding regulation. Take Free Press’s solution to the court ruling:
There’s an easy fix here: The FCC can change broadband back to a “communications service,” which is where it should have been in the first place.
But you can’t change something back to what it never was in the first place. And they even admit that it wasn’t when they say “should have been.” Ever since the FCC has looked at how to treat broadband Internet, they have always sided with Title I (though DSL did switch to Title I a bit later). The government has not had the ability to regulate broadband Internet, so no one should pretend this is a monumental change in policy. Reclassification, however, would be.
After yesterday’s stinging defeat in court, the FCC extended its public comment period on Net Neutrality (which was supposed to end tomorrow). This will likely give proponents some time to write up comments about how great Title II would be. I for one can't wait until my broadband Internet is treated like a 1930's landline telephone complete with taxes, rate setting, and all sorts of other fun and unnecessary regulations - because that's exactly what Title II was designed for.
Meanwhile, here we are. Day 2 of the government…still…not regulating the Internet for over 25 years. And if you’re reading this now, the test worked. The Internet is still open and free. There is no crisis. The courts haven’t taken anything away. The only thing that’s happened is that the Internet can continue to expand, accelerate, and flourish exactly as it has for decades – without unnecessary government involvement.