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Why The FCC’s Free-Market Argument For Repealing Net Neutrality Doesn’t Hold Up

On December 14, the Republican-majority FCC will likely vote to dismantle regulations that enforce internet neutrality safeguards–such as preventing ISPs from blocking or slowing access to some sites and services or charging extra to improve access to others. Beyond reams of esoteric legalese in the 210-page proposal by chairman Ajit Pai are its free-market economic arguments. Chief among them is that competition obviates the need for regulation. If one ISP messes with your free access to the net, you can just go to another. Competition for customers will keep ISPs on good behavior. But that depends on competition actually existing, on one ISP not becoming way more powerful than others. Deep in the document, on page 71, are figures on how much choice Americans currently have for different levels of landline broadband service (based on data the FCC last collected from ISPs in December 2016). The figures are oracle-like, though; the answer changes depending on who is reading the tea leaves and what qualifies as sufficient broadband. How many Americans have two or more choices of broadband providers? It could be 79.7%, or it could be 51.1%. How many live under a one-provider monopoly, or have no broadband access at all? It could be 20.2%, or 48.9%. These discrepancies depend on each interpreter’s interpretation of “broadband.” The optimistic views say that broadband could be as slow as 3 megabits per second downstream and a curiously precise 0.768 Mbps upstream—just enough to stream a video at DVD quality, according to Netflix .

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Why The FCC’s Free-Market Argument For Repealing Net Neutrality Doesn’t Hold Up

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