Rhode Island progressives make believe that new net neutrality mandates by the government will not harm interstate commerce. In the real world, free-market forces are the best way to ensure ISPs do not harm consumers.

Progressive Bad Bill Of The Week: Make Believe Net Neutrality

This week we highlight yet another issue where the progressive-Democrats want government to control another aspect of our lives … this time, the Internet … with the issue being Net Neutrality.

Two related bills, S2008 and H7422, introduced by progressive-left Democrats attempts to solve what is nothing more than a make believe problem. Sponsored by Senators Jeanine Calkin and Gayle Goldin, and Representatives Aaron Regunberg and Deb Ruggiero – among others –  the legislation, collectively would:

  1. Reimpose unnecessary regulations on Internet Service Providers in Rhode Island, in response to the federal government repealed such regulations in just last year 2017
  2. Prohibit state and local governments from purchasing any broadband or internet service from any Service Provider who does not comply with now defunct net neutrality principles.

To the left, our access to the internet is at stake. “It is almost impossible for most of us to imagine getting through the day without using the internet. Open and equal access has been an essential cornerstone of this medium, and the FCC’s actions to the contrary amount to a grave threat to online free speech,” said the RI ACLU. “This legislation is an important step in protecting Rhode Islanders from the threats of censorship that the repeal of net neutrality can bring.” Of course, this attitude is pure fantasy.

Other reasons why Net Neutrality proponents are living in a land of make believe:

  • Progressives believe they believe they can see into the future via their “crystal ball” approach. We consider this Make Believe because the left is concerned about what MIGHT happen. These state net neutrality bills, filed in response to the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) recent vote to overturn Title II, would result in a number of negative consequences for residents of RI. What is needed is a vs “light touch” approach, where until systematic abuse is documented, the Internet is allowed to continue to expand on its own, with as little government interference as possible.
  • Progressives also pretend Title II Net Neutrality regulations achieved their purported goals, It did not: The now defunct Obama-era federal regulations did not stop any Internet blocking, throttling, or paid prioritization The D.C. Circuit Court said that the Title II internet order did allow ISPs to offer filtered Internet access. Proponents of a public utility-style internet have been inappropriately conflating the principles of net neutrality and Title II, painting the latter, a 1930’s copper wire regulatory scheme in the 1996 Telecommunications Act, as a way to ensure Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are not able to filter data or advantage themselves over their competitors. In reality, Title II would have done nothing to address those dramatized concerns. The D.C. Circuit Court explained that Title II would not have prevented ISPs from offering filtered internet access, and that they are not doing so anyway out of fear that they would lose subscribers.
  • Progressives pretend that other protections don’t exist. The left can have the peace of mind of understanding that existing state and federal laws (the Clayton and Sherman Anti-Trust Acts, for example) already allow Attorneys General and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to police ISPs. Bad actors would be in violation of federal anti-trust law, which protects against discriminatory conduct, as well as a host of other federal and state consumer protection laws.
  • Progressives also make believe that new net neutrality mandates by the government will not harm interstate commerce: So-called net neutrality state laws are not only unnecessary, they would be a huge mistake. As w Title II would have made it much more costly and complex for new ISPs to enter the market and for existing ISPs to remain in business, build out their networks, and invest in new technology. Similarly, a patchwork of different state net neutrality laws would result in the same consequences, and would deter ISPs from remaining and expanding in states with such legislation.

The proper role of state and federal governments should be to deter fraud, enforce contracts, and arbitrate disputes. Clear, consistent, and limited government maximizes innovation and competition. Reliable internet access encourages and accelerates economic growth and development. New government mandates will only lead to costly litigation because the internet is inherently interstate commerce.

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In the real world, free-market forces, not overly burdensome government regulations, are the best way to ensure ISPs do not harm consumers and do not engage in anticompetitive behavior. A state net neutrality law would only result in RI consumers being left fewer choices, higher prices, and deteriorating service.

Folks, only in the progressive land of make believe are Net Neutrality regulations actually needed and effective.


Read more about this issue from from the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. In summary, Mercatus Senior Research Fellow Brent Skorup released new commentary in The Technology Liberation Front titled “Net Neutrality State Laws Are Doomed To Fail.” Highlights include:

  • Splitting the internet into dozens, or even hundreds, of “splinternets,” each with a different local or state regulator will lead to vastly different stances on identical Internet Service Provider (ISP) conduct.
  • Most proposed state and local internet regulations are doomed to fail in courts as they are in violation of well-established law which prohibits regulators from imposing common carrier obligations on non-common carriers.
  • Net neutrality regulations violate ISPs’ First Amendment rights. See a short summary of Skorup’s public comment to the Federal Communications Commission.
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