Yesterday the Federal Communication Commission voted to revert back to “net neutrality,” the  Obama-era regulations reversed by the Trump administration to control internet access and content. 

By a 3-2 vote, these rules first adopted in 2015 are a supposed “solution” in search of a problem. Essentially, the FCC is returning the Internet into a regulated utility under Title II of the 1934 Communications Act. The FCC is adding new layers of red tape that will increase prices.
The Wall Street Journal editorial board gives more context:

This will let the commission regulate providers like AT&T, including by fixing prices and micro-managing network investment. Why does the FCC need this power?

FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel concedes that providers don’t block, throttle or charge more to speed up sites. Yet this was the justification for the Obama FCC’s Title II power grab. Ms. Rosenworcel’s new justification is that “loopholes” in FCC oversight have left the internet vulnerable to national-security, cyber-security and privacy threats. This is ridiculous, and she knows it.

The Biden Administration notes in an FCC filing that U.S. security agencies already have and “exercise substantial authorities with respect to the information and communications sectors.” … Ms. Rosenworcel is reimposing Title II because she wants sweeping political control over the internet. …

Provider practices that interfere with the government’s “digital equity” goals could be deemed unlawful. The order reinstates a vague “no-unreasonable interference or disadvantage standard” that lets the FCC “prohibit practices that unreasonably interfere” with and cause “harm to the open Internet.”

What are such unreasonable practices? Carriers will find out when the FCC prohibits them using a “case-by-case review” and “multi-faceted enforcement framework comprised of advisory opinions.” In other words, the decisions will be up to bureaucratic whim…. There’s no legal, economic or equity justification for Ms. Rosenworcel’s pending power grab. It will slow the spread of 5G access. This diktat is all about asserting political control over more of the private economy—no matter the consequences.

A new report from the Committee to Unleash Prosperity (CTUP) by Phil Kerpen and University of Chicago professor Casey B. Mulligan shows who gets hit by new Internet regulations: the poor. Poorer families spend a bigger portion of their budgets on internet services, and so they’re hit hardest by far, as their graph illustrates:

“Internet Regulation is a Tax on the Poor,” the CTUP authors write. “New federal regulations disproportionately reduce the incomes of households whose incomes are already low, especially because a number of the rules ‘indulge[ the preferences of the wealthy’ (Thomas 2019). Telecommunications regulations are no exception … recall that the FCC is only one of dozens of agencies that have been known to require low income households to have champagne habits on a beer budget.”

On the flip side, Kerpen and Mulligan also show that the deregulation of the internet under Trump—e.g. reversing the Obama FCC power grab—had two positive effects. First, it made broadband more affordable:

Second, deregulation brought better and speedier service. Wireless internet speeds increased by a factor of eight AFTER the FCC regs were lifted in 2017:

Congressional action is the best way to resolve this net neutrality dispute, otherwise, our country will keep ping-ponging back and forth depending on which party controls the White House. This is not a sustainable way to do business.