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One Year Ago Today, the FCC Killed the Internet

But if you're reading this, you know that's not true.

KEVIN DIETSCH/UPI/NewscomKEVIN DIETSCH/UPI/NewscomOne year ago today, the Federal Communications Commission killed the internet.

Except the internet didn't really die—quite the opposite, in fact—when the FCC voted down party lines to end the series of regulations known as "net neutrality."

Despite the overwrought warnings and fearful pleas of advocates for greater government regulation of the world wide web, the past 12 months have not seen a rise in evil cable companies slowing consumers' internet connections or the creation of an online dystopia where only those who can plop down fat stacks of cash to pay for premium connections can have fun.

Everything you love about the internet will be ruined, we were told. "The illegal music you downloaded on Napster or Kazaa. The legal music you've streamed on Spotify. The countless hours of pornography you've watched. The movies and TV shows you've binged on Netflix and Amazon and Hulu. The dating site that helped you find the person you're now married to. All of these things are thanks to net neutrality." Except all those things existed before net neutrality was implemented in 2015 and—shocker!—it all still exists today (well not Kazaa, but no one misses Kazaa).

It was going to be very bad. "Try this scenario on for size: You wake up, reach for your phone, and head to your favorite news site to check the headlines. But instead of the latest news, you see a message from your cellphone carrier: 'This site is not available. Please upgrade to our deluxe package to access it.'"

Has that happened to you in the past 12 months?

The net neutrality fear-mongering is worth remembering because of how widespread, mainstream, and self-assured it was. The front page of CNN.com called the FCC's vote "The end of the internet as we know it," but I just checked and CNN.com is still there, somehow. The same is true of The New York Times' website, where you can still find an op-ed declaring that repealing net neutrality would be the "final pillow in [the internet's] face."

Bunk. All of it. Internet speeds have increased by 40 percent during 2018, according to a recent report by Recode.

It could be that corporate mischief is being kept at bay by the threat of returning federal regulation. "Any egregious violations of the principles of net neutrality by broadband providers would provide ammunition to advocates who want the old rules restored," opines Wired's Klint Finley today in a detailed review of what's changed and what hasn't (mostly hasn't) in the year since the end of net neutrality.

But it's more likely, I think, that ISPs have pretty good incentives to keep their consumers satisfied—and that means not shutting off their Netflix—in a market where longstanding walls that limited competition are coming down. With wireless speeds now able to compete with traditional internet connections, cable companies like Comcast have even more of a reason not to slow down service or "throttle" websites. If I can't watch Hulu on my wifi-connected TV, I'll just stream it from my phone and think harder about cutting the cord.

That's why net neutrality was always, as FCC chairman Ajit Pai told Reason pre-repeal, "a solution that won't work to a problem that doesn't exist."

Or, as Reason's Nick Gillespie spelled out last year on the eve of the net neutrality repeal.

First and foremost, the repeal simply returns the internet back to pre-2015 rules where there were absolutely no systematic issues related to throttling and blocking of sites (and no, ISPs weren't to blame for Netflix quality issues in 2013). As Pai stressed in an exclusive interview with Reason last week, one major impact of net neutrality regs was a historic decline in investment in internet infrastructure, which would ultimately make things worse for all users. Why bother building out more capacity if there's a strong likelihood that the government will effectively nationalize your pipes? Despite fears, the fact is that in the run-up to government regulation, both the average speed and number of internet connections (especially mobile) continued to climb and the percentage of Americans without "advanced telecommunications capability" dropped from 20 percent to 10 percent between 2012 and 2014, according to the FCC (see table 7 in full report). Nobody likes paying for the internet or for cell service, but the fact is that services have been getting better and options have been growing for most people.

If there's a threat to the future of the internet in 2018, it's not from the demise of net neutrality but from the ongoing efforts of politicians to control technology that they don't understand.

From the Republican-led efforts to use antitrust laws to target Google and Facebook for being insufficiently conservative-friendly to the Democrat-led efforts to regulate digital platforms in the name of stopping election-meddling Russian bots and fake news, Congress is scheming up all sorts of ways to do far worse things than anything cable companies have done in the aftermath of net neutrality's demise. And don't forget the entirely predictable anti-freedom consequences of the passage of the Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act of 2017 (FOSTA), which nominally cracks down on sex trafficking but practically pushes sex workers into more dangerous situations both online and in the real world.

The next time you hear someone wailing about the need for new laws to save the internet, remember how stupidly wrong all the predictions about net neutrality turned out. The internet is fine. Just let it be free.

Photo Credit: KEVIN DIETSCH/UPI/Newscom

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  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    The countless hours of pornography you've watched.

    I can count 'em, Broheim, I can count 'em.

  • DenverJ||

    It's like tree rings, but you count calluses.

  • Rat on a train||

    5840? Since the repeal.

  • Jimothy||

    I can count them on one hand. Because the other hand is busy.

  • Wizard4169||

    Please consider yourself upvoted.

  • Last of the Shitlords||

    "I can count 'em, Broheim, I can count 'em."

    Scientific notation is your friend.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    By the way, here's an excellent assessment of Net Neutrality from 11 months ago from 1791l, which does a great job of breaking down the disingenuous media (John Oliver in particular) treatment of the issue.

    Also, there's a side discussion that I think would be worthwhile for libertarians, and it's that the push for Net Neutrality might have at least had some insightful points, even if those points were aimed in the wrong direction. I think it's worth noting that the concern has been 'common carriers'-- usually defined in the realm of providing the physical service. In networking, we'll refer to that as layer 1-3. But there are other powerful players who seem to be abusing their power-- even engaging in collusion, and while they're not "common carriers" as the NN rules defined them, they've become common carriers in the realm of content delivery: YouTube, Google, Facebook and various CDNs and certificate authorities (GoDaddy)-- all the entities that supported net neutrality. These entities can and do have the power-- when acting in concert-- to greatly reduce someone's livelihood and greatly diminish the scope of their speech.

  • DenverJ||

    Wait wait wait. So you're telling me that companies that already have large market shares actually want the government to put up roadblocks to new competition? Whoa.

  • soldiermedic76||

    Isn't it funny how progressives claim they only want regulations to rein in bug business, but it's always big business that benefits from regulations? I love how time and time again you can demonstrate how regulations kill competition yet these morons keep insisting the aim is to encourage competition and keep the big guys under control. I see it in agriculture too. Almost every regulations hurts the smaller farmer/rancher and benefits the big guys who can afford to offset the cost (who then become larger because turn are able to take over when the little guy gives up/goes out of business).

  • Greg J||

    Yes, but Eric's clearly a big fan of those content delivery "common carriers" censoring / deplatforming / muzzling all those of us who disagree with Eric from the Right

    So that's a feature, not a bug

  • DaveSs||

    The non-ISP tech companies were the ones going on and on about how ISPs were among other things going to become big time censors.

    When in truth, over the past year those same tech companies that have been the ones shutting down voices.

  • Get To Da Chippah||

    (Net Neutrality repealed)

    Progs: Dear Gaia, ISPs will start censoring access to things they don't like!!!

    (Facebook and Twitter start banning conservative accounts)

    Progs: Well they're private companies and can do what they want.

  • fatcyst||

    Add to this, these are global companies now in bed with local and global government.

  • Navilor||

    Your link in the "and no, ISPs weren't to blame for Netflix quality issues" is dead.
    https:// blog. streamingmedia. com/2014/06/ netflix-isp-newdata.html

    Fortunately the Internet is forever.
    https:// web. archive. org/web/20141124224408/

  • Jimothy||

    Oh my god, the nightmares are coming true! They're blocking the internet!

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    [tap tap] Is this thing on? Are you able to even read my comment? Who knows what's permissible in this dystopian nightmare future.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Deplatformed

  • Rat on a train||

    I received your comment by telegram. I am responding by carrier pigeon.

  • DenverJ||

    I can't read your comment. NN was repealed and I can only afford to post, not read.

  • Don't look at me!||

    i find it's cheaper if you only use lower case letters.

  • Longtobefree||

    I save a lot by not using punctuation

  • Rat on a train||

    anyothertips

  • gormadoc||

    newspeak

  • vek||

    drp th vwls t svs mr chrtrs thn spcs aln

  • I am the 0.000000013%||

    nw yr spkng my lngge

  • Rich||

    One year ago today, the Federal Communications Commission killed the internet.

    Now the FCC is free to kill robocalls and database hacking!

  • Mudhen||

    My condolences to the families of all who died as the result of the repeal Net Neutrality.

  • Don't look at me!||

    Their ISP denied them water for 8 hours.

  • LarryA||

    This sounds a lot like all the many articles a year after each state passed concealed carry.

    "Gee whiz, the sky didn't fall."

    Why is anyone still listening to the pecksniffs?

  • Eddy||

    They thought the Internet was dead like Morgan the Mason
    But it came back, just like Freddy or Jason

  • KPapazyan47||

    Nobody died, and I for one am shocked.
    Shocked, I say.

  • Inigo Montoya||

    Okay, we may have survived no net neutrality, but I have no doubt we will still be crowded out by Paul Ehrlich's population bomb—that is unless we die in wildfire or drown from rising sea levels first! And better make your peace now because these things are exactly 10 years away.

    There's no use denying it. We're doomed and only the firm and mighty (but loving) hand of Big Brother might still save us.

  • vek||

    The population growth estimates keep coming down every few years, and pretty much everywhere is trending good... Except for Africa. If those wankers would stop popping out a ton of kids, we'd be pretty friggin' solid on population growth. Even India is on a good track now! But current estimate show Africa may end up being damn near half the global population by centuries end or so...

  • Ken Arromdee||

    Except all those things existed before net neutrality was implemented in 2015

    This is nonsense. The existing regulations amounted to net neutrality up to 2014, when the ruling in Verizon Communications Inc. v. FCC came out. The FCC "implemented net neutrality in 2015" to put it back when the recent court ruling had just taken it away. It is not true that those things existed before 2015 for any substantial period of time without net neutrality.

  • JFree||

    I thought the big advantage of the change away from net neutrality was that granny wouldn't have to pay all that money for email that's bundled with pornhub since she only uses that Internet-thingie email to send 'letters' (yes granny thinks that's what emails are) to her grandkids asking whether the dogfood fruitcake she made for them is yummy.

  • fafalone||

    That you have to continually resort to nothing but strawmen about what was allegedly supposed to happen continues Reason's non-stop intellectual bankruptcy on this issue.
    I agree with a lot of the positions the articles here take, and disagree with some too. But even where I disagree, a good, honest case is usually made, and I at least respect the argument. On net neutrality, it's been strawmen and lies. Misleading or false propaganda straight from the Republican playbook.

    -The strawman that this was supposed to happen immediately, at the worst time from a PR perspective, and the worse time from a legal perspective with ongoing litigation at the state level.

    -That general connection speeds are related to net neutrality. Another strawman, nobody argued overall speed was going to go down, because net neutrality only even relates to speeds to an individual site.

    -That wireless internet represents competition for home connections. This is a very misleading argument, as it doesn't, especially for video watchers, the most likely to be impacted by NN. Wired competition is not increasing. So no, there's not increasing competition and no incentive to keep customers happy. Stream it from your phone... what a joke have you even heard of mobile data caps and how fast Netflix will hit them?

  • fafalone||

    (continued)

    -Then you quote two of Nick Gillespie's straight up lies. ISP policies were absolutely to blame for that Netflix situation, alternative transit points that were not saturated were available and they purposefully avoided a less congested route in order to keep the main one congested and thus extract payment. Also repeated is Nick's lie that there were no net neutrality issues prior to 2015: look here to see some. Mr. Gillespie continually prints factually false information on this subject.

    At least at the very end I can agree those other subjects are bigger threats at this moment.
    But overall this article is a disgrace to honest journalism and the kind of quality I've come to expect from Reason.

    I also fail to see the libertarian case for allowing an entrenched monopoly/duopoly system to abuse its market dominance in order to act as a gatekeeper as it double-bills to pick winners and losers in both competing and unrelated products.

  • DenverJ||

    Sounds like you got a shitty phone plan, friend.

  • gormadoc||

    Wait, you want to increase regulations on companies in a market in order to end a (non-existent) monopoly? Monopolies are ended with low barriers to entry. Always have been and always will be. Net neutrality would never have done that.

  • gormadoc||

    Wait, you say even dumber stuff afterwards. Greedy companies have absolutely no incentive to "pick winners and losers" in markets they're not in. It doesn't make them money while it does cost them resources. Boeing has more market dominance in aerospace than a US IP in networks, but they aren't fiddling around with wasting capital in the jet chartering market for that exact reason.

  • fatcyst||

    Rough quote from Ron Paul as to why to oppose: 'if the governments involved its probably bad'.

    You're welcome

  • Red Rocks White Privilege||

    Literally nothing you wrote in your shitposts are accurate.

  • Naaman Brown||

    Kazaa?

    Wikipedia: "By August 2012, the Kazaa website was no longer active."

    I suspect Kazaa was brought down by copyright-related lawsuits, not by net neutrality.

  • Brandybuck||

    Last week I was in an online argument with some dude who swore that the Fallout universe's portrayal of evil greedy corporations was not whimsical sarcasm, but what life would actually be like if businesses got their way. That it only due to an interventionist state that we don't have corporations running evil experiments on their customers.

    But I started to realize this attitude is held by more than just forum trolls. Thanks to bad Hollywood movies and cheesy television, a huge chunk of the populace actually believes this. This story is an example. Without Net Neutrality all the the internet providers would collude to charge whatever the richest consumer could bear; that the goal of business is to literally abuse their customers; that only the FCC stands in the way of the fatcat ISPs feeding children to dogs for sport.

  • Mr. JD||

    Were you born yesterday?

    This is why Leftism exists!

  • vek||

    Back here in the real world, Google, Facebook, and the media in general have shown a lot more REAL WORLD bias than any ISP ever has. And I'm still not ready to regulate the shit out of them... But there's a lot stronger case for that than there ever was for NN.

    I'm hoping the good ol' free market kicks them all in the balls good and proper though, and no laws need to come in to deal with any of their commie bias either. But NN was very much a solution that wouldn't work for a problem that didn't exist.

  • Greg J||

    "From the Republican-led efforts to use antitrust laws to target Google and Facebook for being insufficiently conservative-friendly "

    You want to be a common carrier? Great! You can't be sued for what people post using you.

    You also can NOT pick and chose what opinions people can post with you.

    You want to have politics, and be a publisher? Great!

    The you, whether you're the New York Times, Random House, or YouTube, are corporately liable for everything you publish. No "safe harbors". You chose to publish it, it's your legal responsibility.

    That is what those "big mean evil Republicans" are trying to do. The horror!

    The only reason to oppose it is because yo9u're an idiot, who thinks the censors will never come for you.

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