The Internet is one of the most dynamic and competitive marketplaces in existence. It has become a cornerstone of the American economy and culture. Because of this, concerns about the future of an open and fair Internet, coined as “net neutrality,” have come to light. Net neutrality may seem like a complex issue, but at the core the question is simple. Do you want more or less choice? Do you want more regulation governing the Internet? Overall, we have achieved open access to the Internet through free enterprise and competition. Unfortunately, the Obama Administration does not agree.
Earlier this year, the Federal Communications Commission voted to approve the “Open Internet” order – a new regulation to enforce net neutrality. The FCC’s rule is the wrong direction for the Internet. Four million Americans wrote the FCC asking it to protect and promote an open Internet. The FCC turned a deaf ear and delivered the most heavy-handed regulatory regime imaginable. It 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 Internet would be a mistake and undermine the intent of net neutrality, which is to maintain a free, open, and competitive Internet.
The order will undoubtedly raise Internet service costs, discourage investment, and slow broadband speeds. It’s currently estimated that we will see $11 billion in new taxes and fees. It will reduce consumer choice as well. A group of 142 wireless Internet service providers, 24 of the country’s smallest ISPs, and the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council all urged the FCC not to issue this regulation because it would “erode investment and innovation,” and “badly strain our limited resources.” These are the types of companies that serve small and rural communities, like many in the Sixth District, and the FCC’s regulations threaten their very livelihood. Forcing companies out of business rarely results in more consumer choice.
Recently, I held a hearing in the House Judiciary Committee to examine the net neutrality rule. At the hearing, FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai, who opposed the rule, asked what problem it fixes. The FCC has presented no proof that there isn’t competitive access to the Internet right now. The FCC’s rule is in search of a problem that does not exist, and I’m concerned that it is just opening the door to future regulations on the Internet.
The Internet doesn’t need an inflexible “one-size-fits-all” government mandate to ensure net neutrality and consumers don’t need the extra costs. 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 anti-competitive conduct in the marketplace. We should focus on using these laws to keep the Internet open and free, not regulations that will wreck it instead.