FCC Wants to Return Internet Access Regulation to Title I Model

Though it will be controversial in some quarters, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai suggests network neutrality should return to the light touch policies “in place for decades before 2015, we had a free and open Internet,” dating back to the Clinton administration.

Most significantly, Pai proposes to return the framework to regulation of internet access as a Title I information service, not a Title II “common carrier” service.”

Some will see greater freedom as a result, while detractors will see less. Since every public policy has corresponding private interests, some might characterize the “freedoms” as accruing to app providers (some call them edge providers) while others would say the new freedoms will accrue to access providers.

Since the “consumer” or “public” interest can be argued in any number of ways, agreement is unlikely. It is fair to note that, under common carrier regulation, U.S. residents had low cost services, but little benefit from innovation. The fear often is that Title I inevitably means higher prices.

Nothing about the development of the internet or computing suggests that is the most likely outcome. Application providers always have been free of such regulation, and it is hard to argue with the observation that quality, variety and price all have improved.

At the same time, in all years, consumer internet access prices, in real terms, have dropped, both in absolute terms, and relative terms, as speeds have been increased at the same time that retail prices have dropped.

Some fear there will be reduced competition in a Title I framework. Some may try to exercise market power. We will see. Of course, higher prices create more incentive for competitors to enter the market. Higher market share provides the same sort of incentives. The more share any market leader has, the more chances to build a business taking share from that leader.


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