Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Ending "net neutrality" - what 1987 and 2017 have in common

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is planning to dismantle the federal "net neutrality" regulations which ensure equal access to the internet.

Getting rid of the net neutrality rules would allow internet service providers like AT&T and Verizon to charge users more for certain services, speed up access for their business partners and slow or restrict access to any online content they choose.

The ISPs emphasize that limiting government intervention in their businesses will favor investment and innovation and ultimately their customers will benefit from new services.

It sounds a lot like the argument for eliminating the Fairness Doctrine in the 1980s.

Broadcasters didn't want the government regulating what they could put on the air. They argued the resulting freedom would mean more diversity of programming and viewer choice. And the public affairs programs "in the public interest" required by the Fairness Doctrine as a condition of holding a broadcast license (also called the "license to print money") would not go away.

In 1987, the FCC sided with the broadcasters and the free market.

Thirty years later, click around the cable box and then take a look at your monthly cable bill. Few would say the public interest has been well served.

The media companies, however, did very well.

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