Issue in Focus
Many condemned this week’s news that Netflix has reduced the quality of its video stream for certain wireless customers as a violation of the Federal Communications Commission’s year-old Open Internet Order, or what’s commonly called “net neutrality.” However, several FCC commissioners have stated that they have no power to prevent Netflix from doing this, as net neutrality applies only to Internet Service Providers.
Even those who consider themselves net neutrality advocates can appreciate this problem: different standards apply to different companies just because a recently updated New Deal-era law says so. Why can one company be allowed to decrease the quality of its service to consumers while others are prohibited from altering their models to best suit consumer demands?
This situation demonstrates the central problem of the FCC’s net neutrality policy: an unaccountable government agency picks winners and losers, with the ultimate losers being American consumers who miss out on faster speeds and better quality at lower prices.
This onerous regulation has already hindered several money-saving options consumers could utilize. Innovative programs like T-Mobile's "Binge-On" are attacked under the pretense of net-neutrality concerns, even though they give consumers increased access to popular content at no additional cost. Meanwhile, some more restrictive services – like Netflix – are not subject to the same amount of regulatory scrutiny by net-neutrality proponents.
This real-world case proves that unelected bureaucrats should not write regulations that pick winners and losers while ignoring the cost-benefit consequences for consumers. And when regulators do unfairly place the government’s thumb on the scale of a free and open marketplace, Congress has a duty to respond.
That's why I introduced, along with several of my colleagues, the Restoring Internet Freedom Act. This bill will repeal the FCC's net neutrality rules and set the stage for more comprehensive reforms of federal technology policy, allowing for creativity and innovation that drives down costs and improves the lives of all consumers exponentially.
Instead of expanding the scope of an 80-year-old law beyond recognition, we should trust the good judgment and common sense of the American people to decide what works and what doesn't. This has been our nation's way since its inception: the belief that ordinary men and women – not distant, unelected bureaucrats – make their own decisions. The Restoring Internet Freedom Act is an important first step towards increasing competition in the technology marketplace, which will only benefit consumers as innovation intensifies, services improve, and prices drop.