The Internet is one of the most dynamic and competitive marketplaces in existence and has become a cornerstone of the American economy and culture. Consequently, concerns about the future of an open and fair Internet, broadly coined as “net neutrality,” have rightfully risen to the forefront of the national debate.
The rise of the net neutrality debate to national prominence has been accompanied with certain misconceptions about the underlying issues. In part, concerns about net neutrality have risen sharply because of aggressive claims that the Internet as we know it is under fire. These claims continue to be made despite the fact that one of the principal regulators of the Internet, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), has not found problems with competition on the Internet in any peer-reviewed study. In addition, the FCC cannot point to a single case of an Internet provider creating a “fast lane” or a “slow lane,” terms used to describe whether an Internet provider selectively expedites or slows consumers’ access to the Internet or to certain websites.
Nevertheless, commentators have called on the FCC to impose burdensome regulations on the Internet as a remedy to these potential threats. President Obama is among the supporters of this regulatory approach, as announced last month in his White House statement.
The proposed regulatory approach relies on the false premise that regulation will result in increased competition. The Internet has transformed the economy and thrived precisely because of an environment of limited regulation. Increasing regulation on the rapidly growing and dynamic Internet would be a mistake and undermine the intent of net neutrality, which is to maintain a free, open, and competitive Internet.
As chairman of the House Judiciary Committee which has jurisdiction over net neutrality, I recently held a hearing on whether antitrust law or regulation is more effective in protecting consumers and innovation on the Internet. The conclusion of experts at the hearing was that the regulatory approach leaves consumers with fewer choices and higher prices, the antithesis of net neutrality.
I also sent a letter to the head of the FCC who will be the chief architect of any future Internet regulations. My letter to the FCC challenged the idea that regulating the Internet is the most effective way to achieve net neutrality and protect consumers from discriminatory conduct. Instead, I urged the FCC to examine the history of the Internet and why it has succeeded free of these regulations.
The Internet doesn’t need an inflexible “one-size-fits-all” government mandate to ensure net neutrality – and consumers do not need an extra $84 burden added to their annual Internet bill as a result of new net neutrality regulations, a number projected by a recent Progressive Policy Institute study.
The key to an open and free Internet lies in strong enforcement of our nation’s antitrust laws. These time-trusted laws allow for maximum flexibility and consistently demonstrate their ability to prevent discriminatory and anti-competitive conduct in the marketplace.
Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) is Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.