For many of the large, powerful internet companies who have signed on to today’s net neutrality protest, the real issue here is not protecting the open internet, but protecting their bottom lines.
The protest consists mostly of prominently displayed “spinning wheels of doom”—the universally reviled data loading symbols—on their websites. The tactic aims to scare consumers into action over a long-debunked hypothetical scenario in which internet service providers “choose favorites” and slow service to certain websites.
Net neutrality is something we all strongly support, and ISPs are committed to modern rules that protect the universally-embraced principles of no blocking, no throttling and no slow lanes. From Amazon to Twitter to Netflix to, yes, even Pornhub, these online giants want consumers to insist to the FCC that only 100 pages of heavy-handed regulations written in 1934 can “save net neutrality.” These are the same companies that grew to supremacy in the absence of this heavy-handed framework, yet suddenly now they want consumers to believe it is essential.
Want to know what really slows the network? Slowing investment. Since 1996, ISPs have invested $1.5 trillion in broadband infrastructure. That’s more than seven times what the U.S. government spent to build the entire interstate highway system.
Rather than one day of action, U.S. broadband companies act every day to build out stronger, faster networks across the country. In fact, they consistently rank among the largest investors in the nation’s economy. But since Title II rules were imposed on modern broadband networks two years ago, annual investment has declined.
This is bad news for consumers. Over the next five years, our nation’s already record-setting data traffic is poised to triple once again, with the rise of cloud computing, virtual reality, autonomous vehicles, video and other bandwidth-intensive activities.
What’s the solution? Clean, modern net neutrality rules that safeguard consumers’ online freedoms without sacrificing their equally keen interest in stronger, faster broadband networks—and all the innovation it makes possible. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai should be commended for seeking that balance in his net neutrality proceeding. And, Congress would do right by all consumers to make these protections permanent under the law.
When you log on today and see the “spinning wheel of doom,” keep in mind that some of the biggest and most dominant online companies in the world don’t need you to fight their battles for them, but they are asking anyway. For consumers and our economy, we don’t need a “day of action” on an issue where we all agree. Instead, we need another decade of progress—investment, constructive policy and more collaborative efforts to see broadband’s many benefits reach all Americans and protect the open internet we all deserve.