Net neutrality is the basic idea that all internet traffic must be treated equally on the network and no company should be able to block or throttle online traffic in order to gain a competitive leg-up. This is a pro-competitive, prophylactic policy to ensure internet providers don’t unfairly become gatekeepers for online services. It’s a sound bi-partisan pragmatic public policy agreement.
For the last two decades, different versions of net neutrality have bounced between Congress, the Federal Communications Commission, the courts – and most recently the states – but the issue remains unresolved. Even today, the FCC’s most recent “Restoring Internet Freedom” order and local net neutrality rules in California and Vermont remain mired in court while Congress considers several different legislative approaches – none of which have been able to gain majority support.
This chaotic and uncertain approach drags down our economy, undermines investment needed to connect new communities and close the digital divide, and sucks up all the oxygen in the room so that other issues like increasing rural connectivity and reducing the digital divide, protecting elections from foreign interference, and finding ways to bring new competition to digital markets get crowded out. Economists estimate that the overhang of this debate drives away nearly $35 billion a year in network investment and consumer upgrades.
It is time for Congress to solve this problem for good by enacting a strong, pro-consumer net neutrality law – an outcome that is politically possible even in this era of maximalist gridlock and deeply divided government, given the broad consensus that has formed around the vital issue of ensuring an open internet.