FCC Commissioner Brenden Carr announced in a recent press release his opposition to new internet regulations being rolled out by FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel. Senate Republicans followed by sending a letter to Rosenworcel discouraging the implementation of these regulations. Carr calls these regulations “unlawful,” saying, “The American people want more freedom on the Internet—not greater government controls over their online lives.”
These “utility-style ‘net neutrality’ regulations” were proposed following an executive order from President Biden calling on the FCC to implement internet regulations “for the purpose of dissemination  information to the public in a useful manner, to improve price transparency and market functioning.”
Deregulation has been the longtime position of Carr and his Republican colleagues in the FCC. Six years ago, during the Obama Administration, FCC Republicans overturned net neutrality, with many on the left dubbing the move a catastrophe, but the Democrats’ forecasted apocalypse actually resulted in prosperity.
Halting the Obama administration’s overreach restored incentive structures and helped to revitalize the American spirit of innovation. According to the press release, since the 2017 FCC decision reversing Obama-era policies, “Broadband speeds in the U.S. are up, prices are down, competition has increased, and record-breaking broadband builds brought millions of Americans across the digital divide.”
Historically speaking, American innovation is achievable, in part, due to a marketplace with less regulation. Covid-19 was the ultimate stress test proving the adaptability and strength of online industries with actual incentives. Online traffic drastically increased overnight, and American networks outperformed European ones because of the differences in regulation. The letter sent to Rosenworcel explains, “American networks, freed from obtrusive regulations, easily handled the surge in demand during the COVID-19 pandemic. In contrast, Europe’s heavily regulated internet providers were forced to actively slow down speeds to maintain connectivity.”
Despite the clear success of a deregulated internet, Rosenworcel has reintroduced Europe-like utility-style regulations. But Carr says the problem is not necessarily the net-neutrality style rules but rather the practical implications that follow.
“There’s no controversy around the wisdom of those [net-neutrality] rules, so why is this so controversial? Because the second thing going on here is the left attempting to classify the entire internet under a utility-style regulatory regime, it’s micromanagement from Washington,” Carr told The Federalist. “The second piece is so controversial because it would allow anyone in Washington to decide what is just and reasonable on the internet, and that has a lot of practical implications.”
Senate Republicans’ letter to Rosenworcel warns against the practical implications of reinstating these regulations. “Re-imposing heavy-handed, public-utility regulations on the internet would threaten the progress our country has made since 2017, and it would steer our country out of the fast lane and into a world of less competition, less choice, less investment, slower speeds, and higher prices.”
Federal regulations historically remove incentive structures and drive up costs, with Carr saying, “There is no more surefire way of killing off investment and innovation than putting price controls squarely on the table.” Carr cites cases of both regulation and deregulation affecting the costs of services across various industries.
“Since 2017, the prices Americans pay for Internet services have decreased on an inflation-adjusted basis,” Carr said. “Meanwhile, the prices for utility-regulated services like electricity, water, and gas have increased over two times faster than the prices for Internet services. Monopoly regulations invariably lead to monopoly prices.”
The bottom line is these regulations emerge as “a big gift to Big Tech” because “Title II regulations apply only to Big Tech’s competitors, distract regulators’ attention from actual problems, and leave Big Tech companies free to continue operating in a biased and non-neutral manner.”
Opposition to these regulations transcends partisan lines. Carr points out that two former Obama solicitors general have come out with legal analysis warning against reintroducing these regulations. “When Obama’s lawyer says this goes way too far, he’s right,” Carr told The Federalist.
The letter from Senate Republicans echoes Carr’s point. “The FCC has published net neutrality and already lost in court — more than once — and two of President Obama’s former solicitors general have warned that reclassification by the FCC cannot survive the major questions doctrine.”
“Ultimately, it will go to court,” Carr told The Federalist. “This decision by the FCC will not survive Supreme Court review. So, at the end of the day, we are going to win, and the power grab made by the FCC will eventually be overturned. But it will take time.”