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Regulate, Repeal, Repeat: Net Neutrality and the Future of the Internet

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Regulate, Repeal, Repeat: Net Neutrality and the Future of the Internet

April 1, 2021

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If you are tired of Zoom calls, spend too much time on TikTok, or are reading this on your computer screen, we have good news: The Internet still works. For most Americans, this is unsurprising. But three years ago there was an uproar as many politicians, tech advocates, and journalists warned the Internet would soon only load one word at a time or simply that the whole endeavor as we knew it was coming to an end.These intense reactions were evoked by a concept called “net neutrality,” an idea that has diverse definitions but generally refers to regulations that would require Internet service providers (ISPs) to deliver traffic without unfair discrimination.

Net neutrality sloganeering causes a frenzy every time the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) changes political hands. After the ruckus subsides, however, the actual regulatory issue on the table is far less dramatic. The real question of the hour is whether net neutrality (however defined) should be enforced under Title II of the Communications Act or Title I of the Communications Act (in combination with Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act). And if this sounds like a mundane and boring question, you are correct. But this is not to say that the choice between the two options is unimportant. There are significant differences between the two potential classifications of broadband service and the accompanying regulatory regimes.

Though I consider Title I the better approach, once the costs and benefits of each possibility are considered, there still remains enough common ground between supporters of each classification for compromise, not division.

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