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Net Neutrality Regulation, Jobs and the Public

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As both a candidate, and as President, Donald Trump has promised to end or relax many government regulations, which in his view, hurt the American economy and limit American jobs. Trump himself boasted towards the end of his first year in office,“ Since January of this year (2017), we have slashed job-killing red tape all across our economy…We have stopped or eliminated more regulation in the last eight months than any president has done during an entire term. It’s not even close.” While Trump’s boasts may or may not be true, it cannot be denied that he has made deregulation an important part of his presidency, and his administration has focused a lot of effort in this area. One area of regulation which the Trump administration has attacked has to do with the internet. While many people may agree that in general that there are too many regulations and that they hurt the economy, deregulation surrounding the internet may not be so clear. Last December, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted 3 to 2 to repeal net neutrality rules and regulations which were put in place. in 2015 during the Barack Obama presidency. This action raises many questions and concerns however, that are not easily answered, and require some serious thought. Beyond the issues of businesses and jobs, there is the question of does the public have a basic right to a free and accessible internet, and ultimately, is repealing the net neutrality an overall benefit to the American people?

According to Save the Internet, the rules and regulations known as net neutrality are the “internet’s guiding principle.” The basic belief behind net neutrality regulation, is that all traffic on the internet should be treated equally. Net neutrality preserves and promotes our right to communicate freely online, and makes it so companies provide us with open networks. It also says that business and internet providers cannot block or restrict any websites or content because they might not agree with that content or website. While net neutrality sounds like a no-brainer, as noted, the FCC has voted to repeal it. In taking this action, points have been raised both for and against net neutrality regulations.

Those in favor of the actions the FCC has taken to repeal net neutrality point to a number of arguments. One of which is that net neutrality is simply not needed. The claim here is that the internet grew and competition thrived without net neutrality, which was enacted in 2015. Up until that time, the internet was open and accessible to people and companies had to compete to win consumers business. As Derrick Wlodarz in betanews bluntly describes this argument, “What did the internet look like before Net Neutrality? Exactly like the same one we enjoy today.” People like Wlodarz believe that net neutrality regulations are simply not needed, and that they do nothing but place unnecessary restrictions on businesses, and create unnecessary costs. Ultimately these costs slow down job growth in the regulated internet companies. A second case against net neutrality regulation, is that these regulations ultimately hurt consumers. The thought behind this argument is that consumers should be left to pay for exactly what type of service level they think they need. For example a business that needs the fastest service would pay more than a consumer who only uses the internet for email. This would be similar to someone only paying for basic mail delivery when that is all they needed instead of paying for a more expensive service such as overnight delivery that is not necessary for them. To back up this point, Forbes magazine noted, that, “A 2016 review of economics research on internet regulation found that households who only use basic internet services, like email and Facebook, would probably be better off without the rule (Net Neutrality).” Lastly, there are those that argue there is an economic benefit to repealing the Net Neutrality regulations. Many believe that the Net Neutrality regulations slow down the growth of internet related companies, and that by doing so, the economy and job creation are also slowed. The American Consumer Institute prepared a study on Net Neutrality Regulations, and found that, “..internet regulations…restrict technology advances, innovation and job growth.” A report by report by Charles David of New York Law School, and Bret Swanson of Entropy Economics, gives more evidence of the economic problems with Net Neutrality. Their research states that, “Net Neutrality restrictions would result in anywhere from 500,000–700,000 jobs lost and decrease the Gross Domestic Product by $62-$80 billion.” Ajit Pai,the chairman of the United States Federal Communication Committee, has been the point man on repealing Net Neutrality. Pai follows a few principles that he believes will help America. He believes that because of how rapidly the communications area of the economy is changing, the FCC should do everything it can to ensure that its rules reflect the realities of the current situation, along with the basic principles of economics. He seems to believe in the. economic concerns regarding the Net Neutrality regulations. He believes repealing Net Neutrality will be a win for everyone. He has said the following about the repeal of Net Neutrality, “Consumers will benefit from greater investment in digital infrastructure, which will create jobs…” While there appear to be a number of reasons to repeal Net

Neutrality, people in favor of the Net Neutrality regulations point to their own reasons for keeping it in place.
Many people believe that repealing Net Neutrality will give too much power to the big internet companies. They believe that the internet without net neutrality isn’t really the internet at all. Without net neutrality, major companies will call the shots. Those companies will be able to control what websites and content we are able to use, and would be able to control internet speed. According to savetheinternet.com, without Net Neutrality regulations in place, “ These companies can…slow down their competitors’ content or block political opinions they disagree with. They can charge extra fees to the few content companies that can afford to pay for preferential treatment – relegating everyone else to a slower tier of service.” This would definitely appear to be a negative impact for the American consumer if instead of searching the internet freely, people would be restricted to certain content and websites. As Congressman Tim Ryan of Ohio noted, “ It (repealing Net Neutrality) gives a tremendous amount of power to the internet providers.”

Many feel that the repeal of Net Neutrality will also have economic impacts and bad results for American jobs. If internet providers are able to charge more for their services after the repeal of Net Neutrality, some feel it could harm smaller businesses, which are major employers in the U.S. along with new companies that are just starting. The small and new businesses usually don’t have the financial ability to pay as much as larger, more established companies do. As payscale.com described, “The big guys – Apple, Google, Facebook, etc – can affored to pay whatever prices their ISP’s charge. Not so for smaller companies that are just getting started.” If smaller companies have higher costs, this could cause them to hire less employees. Net neutrality would help the big businesses continue to dominate and never let the smaller companies rise up.

Senator Ed Markey agrees that repealing Net Neutrality is bad for American jobs. He has stated that the repeal will have a. “crippling effect on jobs.” Along with hurting the sheer number of jobs, many believe repeal of Net Neutrality will harm individual job seekers. Because net neutrality limits what we are able to see, that may hurt the chances of people actively looking for a job. When people try to find jobs, many people use the internet for their job search. In fact, 79. percent of Americans say they’ve used the internet to look for work with a full third saying it was the most important resource they leveraged, according to the most recent numbers from the Pew Research Center. If Net Neutrality is overturned, it could mean that job seekers would no longer have equal access to the most important resource they use when looking for work. It could also create an unfair advantage for online recruiting companies that have larger budgets and could provide their website visitors with faster search results. While many big businesses are happy and fine with net neutrality being revoked, one major company is not. Netflix was, and still is completely against it. They tweeted the following on December 14, 2017.

The battle of Net Neutrality is not over. While the FCC voted to remove net neutrality, the United States senate is taking up the issue and trying to change the FCC decision. A bill has been introduced in the Senate to once again impose the Net Neutrality regulations. The measure is supported by 49 Senators. Democratic Senator Ed Markey speaks for those in favor of the Net Neutrality rules when he says: “We’re all in for a free and open Internet.” The issue of Net Neutrality regulations is a complex one that raises important questions about consumer rights, the American economy and jobs, and the power of big companies. We will have to wait and see what decision our government finally comes to regarding Net Neutrality regulations, and how that decision impacts our economy and our everyday lives.

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Net Neutrality Regulation, Jobs and the Public