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A Letter To The FCC Chairman

In this direct letter to Ajit Pai of the FCC, I challenge three of his arguments one at a time.

Net Neutrality

Dear Ajit Pai,

You state that you are “in favor of a free and open Internet” for American citizens, however, your recent announcement on voting to repeal the FCC’s Open Internet Order directly contradicts any such statement of supporting a free and open Internet. Protecting Internet neutrality is absolutely vital for the American Internet to continue to grow organically. You state that the Title II regulations do more harm than good for the American people in regards to Internet access, and that without these regulations, the evolution of the Internet would then be in the hands of “engineers and entrepreneurs”, however, I argue that it would be giving the power to large corporations who will attempt to use this power only for profit. I would like to address several of the points that you made in an interview with PBS released on April 27, 2017.

The first argument that you made was your concern that companies would become disincentivized to build out Internet access to low-income, rural parts of the country that do not yet have access. While it may be true that investments in infrastructure have gone down since the these regulations have been put into place, it has not been long enough to determine if this decline would continue. It makes sense that large companies such as Comcast would take a hit at first, before eventually adapting to these regulations. It is important to note here, that it is the companies who should adapt to supply the demands of the consumers, and not the other way around. If there is a demand for Internet access in low-income parts of the country, it is up to these companies to innovate new ways to reach out to poor and rural areas to supply Internet access. Facebook is a known company who is constantly innovating new ways to connect different parts of the world that would otherwise not have Internet access. Why is it that ISPs and cable companies should be given the easy way out, at the expense of the user experience of American citizens? The only answer could be immediate profit. Our economy thrives on the idea that, in order to survive in business, you must be able to supply the demands of the consumers. By attempting to remove the Open Internet Order rules, you are showing that you have no true interest in innovation, rather, you are interested in seeing these companies profit immediately. Why is that?

You state that you are in favor of a “light-touch regulatory framework”, that allows the Internet market to grow without influence, other than the occasional slap on the wrist if necessary. I argue that without regulations on ISPs, the Internet will grow far less organically than otherwise. It is common sense to assume that large Internet service companies are interested in profit. Why else would they be in business? The current regulations that are in place prevent these companies from throttling Internet access or favoring different forms of Internet traffic. If these companies were allowed, they would favor their own services over other companies. For instance, let’s say “ISP A” has a movie streaming service that competes directly with Netflix. “ISP A” would love to provide faster Internet traffic for their own video streaming service and throttle the traffic to and from Netflix’s servers in order to persuade users to enjoy the faster and more reliable “ISP A” video service. Under Net Neutrality rules, “ISP A” is unable to do this because it distorts the neutral platform that the video streaming service flows through. It directly gives “ISP A” an unfair advantage over Netflix. In what way does this sort of behavior promote organic market growth? It sounds much more like a monopoly, doesn’t it? You argue that the FCC does not see evidence of this in the Marketplace. Allow me to present some examples of this happening in the past. In 2004-2005 Madison River Communications, a telecommunications company and ISP, was caught blocking VoIP (Voice Over IP) communications, forcing their customers to use Madison River’s telecommunication services. In 2007, Comcast was tampering with BitTorrent traffic in order to free up resources for their other customers. In 2012, AT&T was blocking FaceTime calls unless customers signed up for a more expensive package (Kang, Washington Post). In 2002, Comcast was blocking VPN (Virtual Private Network) access unless customers signed up for a more expensive package. We can learn from history that these companies will undoubtedly discriminate against forms of Internet traffic for profit if they are allowed.

The final point that I would like to address from your interview with PBS, Mr. Pai, is that you mention you’ve spoken to consumers from all over the country, and they have expressed more of an interest in being able to have more options for ISPs, and cheaper Internet prices over interests in Net Neutrality. The issue that I see with this argument, is that there are studies that show that consumers do not often directly know what they want or what is best for them, and that ignorance can play a huge role in the opinions people express. If consumers knew what they wanted, it would be very easy to start a successful business. You’d simply ask people what they wanted and then offer it as a product or service. That is simply not the reality. Mark Healy released an article for The Globe And Mail showing research that he was a part of, that shows that consumers typically are unable to accurately predict their future intentions. Tack that on to the potential ignorance of what their Internet service would be like without Title II regulations, and you have an argument with absolutely no foundation. How can you truly take into account the feedback of consumers of your own choosing, but ignore the educated people who try to reach out to you against your actions? You are cherry picking statements from the people in order to suit your interests.

The concern of your decisions is not only external. Jessica Rosenworcel, Commissioner of the FCC, constantly speaks out about how this is a poor decision on your end, and is constantly trying to get the American people to protest. Rosenworcel tweets to the public about this almost every day. The arguments you provide always seem to make sense at first, until you are asked if ISPs will begin discriminating against forms of broadband traffic, at which point your arguments fall to pieces. It is clear that ISPs want to profit from a lack of Net Neutrality regulations, because it gives them access to “Easy Street”. ISPs should be forced to innovate and engineer new ways to provide better, faster, and more secure Internet access to a broader spectrum of people without consumers having to lose privileges. The Darwinian nature of competition between ISPs is why we have had such a thriving technology revolution here in America. History clearly shows that Title II and the Open Internet Order are necessary to maintain the neutral platform that secures organic growth among the Internet market.