On December 14, 2017, the FCC voted 3-2 to repeal regulations that internet providers have to comply with to provide their services to consumers. These regulations prohibit internet service providers from blocking websites, charging more money for access to certain online services and higher-quality internet services. The FCC repealed these regulations in hope that an unregulated internet market would bring economic success, just as economic markets with minimal regulations are more successful than those with extensive regulation.
However, an unregulated economic market requires extensive competition in order to function properly, something most markets have. However, most American consumers only have the choice of one or two internet providers, making an unregulated internet service provider market dangerous territory. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said that the decision to remove regulations for internet service providers will be “helping consumers and promoting competition.” However, this will do the opposite of creating competition. Take a look at the city Avalon in New Jersey; Comcast’s Xfinity is the only internet service available to 99.2% of residents. Verizon’s Fios internet service is only available to 8% of the population. This means that Comcast is the only internet service provider choice for most people, and without the FCC regulations, Comcast will be able to charge large amounts of money for access to certain websites and information, leaving customers with no other choice for an internet provider if they do not want to pay large sums of money for access to websites.
This practice was prohibited by the FCC’s net neutrality rules, and because there is only one internet provider for many people like those who live in Avalon, New Jersey, there is little competition in the internet service provider market. Comcast’s primary competitors AT&T and Verizon have moved away from wired home internet market and have applied more resources to growing their cellular mobile phone service coverage map. As Comcast’s major competitors begin to focus on developing their cellular phone services rather than on home phone, cable and internet services, Comcast’s monopoly over the internet service market will grow larger, crushing small providers that cannot compete with the cable service giant. As one company grows to control the entire internet service provider market, the theory that an economy with little regulation is good for both the company and consumer will no longer apply to the internet service market. Comcast will be able to charge as much money as they want, restrict certain websites from access, including ones that are critical of the company, charge large sums of money to consumers for access to certain websites, as well as sell internet “fast lanes” with no rules to hold them back.
As there are no other internet service providers other than Comcast available for most consumers in the United States, Americans will be forced to pay the large sums of money demanded by their internet provider for access to certain internet websites, crushing the idea that repealing FCC regulations will be beneficial to consumers, an argument FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has made in favor of repealing net neutrality rules. Unless there is competition among several internet service providers, deregulating the internet is a terrible decision that hurts the American people. In addition to monetary disadvantages, the biggest concern for consumers is the censorship of information. Without the net neutrality rules, internet service providers can block access to websites. That means that a politician could pay an internet service provider to block scandalous information about him, as well as information about their opponent. Many politicians are in the pockets of corporations, and as the private sector now has control over access to public information, the American people could now have their access to information restricted, effectively crushing freedom of speech and freedom of the press, a right guaranteed by the Constitution.
Cover image courtesy of Financial Post.