Net Neutrality Surviving Under State’s Rights

  • Date Published
  • Categories News
  • Reading Time 3-Minute Read

The recent news about Net Neutrality comes more as a cry of victory than of defeat, as individual states have decided to defend Net Neutrality on their own.

Net Neutrality has been a topic of much discussion since Chairman of the FCC, Ajit Pai, made it his personal goal to repeal the Obama-era regulations put in place by former FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler. Many speculate that Mr. Pai is still deeply connected to Verizon (due to his role in the past as a lawyer for Verizon) and concerns have arisen if he is still in collusion with members of the telecom lobby, as the repeal of Net Neutrality would benefit these companies more than it would benefit anybody else.

However, the recent news regarding Net Neutrality comes more as a cry of victory than of defeat, as individual states have decided to take up arms and defend Net Neutrality on a state-by-state level. Unfortunately, defending Net Neutrality as individual states makes it hard to manage the matter, as the law was originally an order of Federal protection of the internet. But, regardless, California, Alaska and Oregon have succeeded in pushing their individual Net Neutrality bills forward, ever-closer to implementation, but Colorado was not as lucky. In Colorado, their Net Neutrality bill was tabled by the State Committee indefinitely. The state that has taken the strongest stance in defending Net Neutrality, recently, was Rhode Island, whose governor signed an executive order reinstating the Obama-era regulations. The regulation in Rhode Island “prohibit[s] state agencies from entering into contracts with broadband carriers that engage in blocking, throttling or paid prioritization.”

Another major player joined the fight recently, as well, due to the consolidation of power and influence within the telecom industry. Gizmodo reports, “INCOMPAS, a trade association representing many of the country’s smaller telecos—including internet service providers Sonic and Fatbeam—joined the impending lawsuit against the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to halt the net neutrality repeal.” The current state of the market is borderline non-competitive due to excessive lobbying, and Net Neutrality was the final guard protecting smaller companies and individual rights on the internet. INCOMPAS and others suing the FCC to reinstate Net Neutrality rules appear to believe this to be true, and they see the consolidation of competitive advantage in the largest telecom companies as creating a near-oligopolistic state of the market. In a 95 page statement concerning why INCOMPAS has joined the lawsuit, they argued that repealing the 2015 order, “would gift the country’s biggest broadband providers the ‘incentives and tactics’ necessary to thwart online competition.”

So, for now it appears that Net Neutrality will not vanish entirely, but rather will be supported by states incentivized to defend such regulations. The lack of competitiveness on the market is not only bad for competitors of mature firms (within the industry), but is also terrible for the customers. When there is little competition, firms are able to control their prices and the quality of the service delivered, wholly. Switching costs are null because, in most cases, there are no alternatives to the main telecom and internet provider in the area, making switching providers impossible. This is not the free internet we all deserve (and are paying for) if the few control the quality, speed, and cost of the service we use daily.