The FCC’s decision to repeal Net Neutrality has been met with emotional, hysterical and ignorant criticism from the media and the mob, alike.
The recent repeal of Net Neutrality is just the latest part of a surprisingly sterling effort on the part of the Trump administration to reverse Barack Obama’s overuse of executive powers. There is surely a debate to be had about the merits and shortcomings of Net Neutrality, the principle that Internet service providers must treat all data the same, but that debate is, unfortunately, being smothered by leftist media and the hysteria of the mob that has followed.
Net Neutrality is not the end of the internet, just as repealing DACA is not the end of immigration, and the new tax reform bill will not result in hundreds of deaths, as promised by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. But if a regular internet consumer’s only exposure to the Net Neutrality debate is limited to social media, he or she might think that the FCC’s decision to repeal it signals a Y2K-scale disaster. Instagram posts will now cost five bucks a pop, shirtless Kylo Ren will be illegal and there will soon be no more Netflix once we use it all up. The nation will surely descend into chaos as now only the one percent will be able to use the Internet. Except none of that is true. In fact, the Internet will have the same rules it had until 2015, before Net Neutrality went into effect.
The oft-parroted idea that Net Neutrality’s defeat was influenced by dreaded “big corporations” is interesting, to say the least. On December 16, Business Insider correspondent Steve Kovach wrote that the repeal of Net Neutrality would be a unilateral boon to “big tech” companies, among them Facebook, Google and Amazon. For the sake of argument, let’s say that Kovach’s claims are correct, which they very well may be. But if he’s right, then why did representatives of Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft, Netflix, Reddit, Vimeo, AT&T, USTelecom and other “big tech” companies make public statements in support of Net Neutrality? Typically, large companies tend to favor government regulation that can serve as an obstacle to entry–which Net Neutrality certainly was–to any new disruptor that might want to enter their market. It is precisely these kinds of obstacles in the way of the market that big corporations love. The idea that Google wants to stand up for the little guy is nothing more than a comforting fantasy.
It is possible that these companies support Net Neutrality because they are big enough that it doesn’t really matter what the FCC does. In other words, unaffected by Net Neutrality regulation, the companies simply see where public opinion is going and decide to throw their (ultimately impotent) verbal support behind it. The decision by the Obama FCC in 2015 to implement Net Neutrality–declaring the Internet to be a Title II public utility, rather than a Title I information service–followed the same protective mentality as the taxi medallion holders who have fought so hard to preclude Uber and Lyft from competing in their markets.
The real issue with Net Neutrality, though, is not who supports it; it is how it was enacted and how it was being enforced. Agencies of the federal government, including those in the FCC, Department of Homeland Security, Environmental Protection Agency and others, were bolstered excessively by Barack Obama, whose second presidential term cultivated a legacy of executive overreach. As Erin Hawley of The Hill noted at the end of his presidency, “Obama’s legacy is not so much about his particular position on any of these issues, but rather it is about something much more fundamental — pervasive and unprecedented executive overreach.”
A critical mistake often overlooked by commentators is that many of the Trump administration’s high-profile actions have been spiteful efforts to reverse that harmful legacy. For example, Trump’s decision to reverse DACA earlier this year met heavy criticism, including protests on our very own campus. Unoriginal accusations of racism, jingoism and a lack of empathy began to circulate, but what accusers failed to realize was that the reversal had much more to do with restoring constitutional integrity than immigration procedure. Trump noted that DACA was “a very, very difficult subject for me… one of the most difficult subjects I have.” Trump has even shown willingness to work with top Democrats like Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer to constitutionally pass DACA through Congress.
In any event, DACA’s repeal should signal a victory for constitutionalists across the political spectrum, but left-wing appeals to emotion and identity politics have been able to drown out celebration. The opportunity to reinforce the narrative of Trump deporting children of color has been impossible for many on the left to resist.
We’re watching a similar scenario unfold with the FCC’s repeal of Net Neutrality. This is yet another example of Trump eschewing Obama-era overreach and returning constitutionally-mandated powers to the legislative branch. At the time of its activation, there was never public outcry for Net Neutrality, and the internet’s growth was not really being hindered. A late-November editorial from National Review described the FCC’s 2015 decision to enact the wide-ranging regulations on Internet rules as “a preemptive strike on a problem that does not exist and may never exist.” This strike was a thorough one, as it suddenly made the FCC the grand arbiter of price-setting for Internet service providers. This move may be seen as alarmist, as well as a vast exaggeration on what the FCC’s job is supposed to be, but it is still a debate to be had. Only, that debate should be had and acted on in Congress.
The informal debate online seems to be one-sided, but in a rather odd stroke of luck for Trump, most of the outrage seems to be directed not at him, but at FCC chairman Ajit Pai.Interestingly enough, Pai has not publicly declared himself for or against Net Neutrality, but he shares Trump’s view that the FCC should not possess the authority to govern the Internet. Pai hasn’t helped the situation, though, nor has he even attempted to improve his public image, as his responses to criticism have more closely mirrored arrogant taunts than explanations.
Some critics have accused President Trump of harboring some kind of hateful grudge against the legacy of his predecessor. But so what? If the fruits of his alleged grudge include a necessary restoration and defense of the constitution, then more power to him — but not more than the framers intended.
—J. Thomas Perdue is the Associate Editor of The Arch Conservative.