Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Five Years After the FCC's Ill-Fated Title II Order, Broadband is Thriving

Five years ago today, the Wheeler/Obama FCC adopted its Title II Order, subjecting broadband Internet access services to public utility-like regulation. The Commission's imposition of Title II regulation was a heavy-handed reversal of the prior bipartisan consensus policy favoring a light-touch regulation of broadband Internet services. When the 2015 Title II Order was adopted, pro-regulatory Commissioners and advocates claimed that stringent new rules were absolutely necessary to save free speech on the Internet. And Title II regulation was touted as the only way to prevent the rise of broadband service "fast-lanes" that would divide the Internet between haves and have-nots. 

Thankfully, under Chairman Ajit Pai's leadership, the FCC changed course and repealed Title II regulation in the 2018 Restoring Internet Freedom Order. The RIFO concluded that Title II regulation actually harmed broadband investment and innovation, slowing deployment to all Americans. Now, five years after the Title II Order's adoption, none of the horror stories about broadband service provider speech suppression or fast lanes and slow lanes have materialized. 

Broadband subscribers are better off than they were five years ago, without Title II regulation. Since the repeal of the Title II Order, broadband investment has improved, wireless and wireline subscribers have risen, speeds have increased, data traffic has dramatically grown, and deployments of next-generation networks such as 5G wireless and gigabit wireline are underway. For more on this, see my September 2019 Perspectives from FSF Scholars paper, "Resurgence in Broadband Deployment Vindicates FCC's Pro-Investment Policies." And for a more recent look at the state of the broadband Internet services in this restored light-touch regulatory environment, see my Perspectives paper, "The Communications Market at 2020: The Competitiveness of Video, Mobile, and Fixed Broadband."