Net neutrality mania was so intense that one year ago FCC Chairman Ajit Pai had to cancel his appearance at the Consumer Electronics Show because of death threats he’d received. That was the same day the FCC published its final rule repealing “net neutrality.”
So-called experts predicted that removing this cumbersome Obama-era regulatory scheme — which granted the FCC virtually unchecked power over internet providers — would lead to the demise of the internet.
Repealing “net neutrality” regulations “would be the final pillow in (the internet’s) face,” said The New York Times. The ACLU said it “risks erosion of the biggest free-speech platform the world has ever known.” CNET declared that “net neutrality repeal means your internet may never be the same.” CNN labeled repeal the “end of the internet as we know it.”
One of the Democratic commissioners on the FCC claimed that repealing “net neutrality” would “green light to our nation’s largest broadband providers to engage in anti-consumer practices, including blocking, slowing down traffic, and paid prioritization of online applications and services.”
There were protests and lawsuits. The biggest companies on the internet mounted online campaigns. Democrats vowed to make “net neutrality” a major campaign issue.
What Actually Happened
A year later, none of the horror stories came true. In fact, average internet speeds climbed by roughly a third last year. The number of homes with access to fiber internet jumped 23% last year, according to the Fiber Broadband Association.
Oh, and “net neutrality” was a nonissue in the Democratic midterm campaigns. One party official said that Dems didn’t campaign on it because: “It’s not something that people bring up in their top list of concerns.”
In a statement last week, Pai said that, “the FCC’s light-touch approach is working.”
Meanwhile, at this year’s CES, the industry will highlight the promise of 5G internet, which allows speeds 100 times faster than the current wireless networks. D-Link plans to showcase a 5G router that will let homeowners cut the cord and still get speeds 40 times faster.
Promise of 5G
Not only will speed climb exponentially, but 5G will inject still more competition in the ISP market. Even “net neutrality” advocates should be willing to admit that there’s no need for a massive federal regulatory system in a highly competitive market, since no internet provider would dare throttle or block sites for fear of losing customers.
What we did learn over the past year is that the real threats to a “free and open” internet aren’t the ISPs, but the self-appointed internet censors at Google, Facebook and Twitter.
The only question that remains is whether those “net neutrality” zealots will apologize to the public for repeatedly crying wolf.