Natural Experiment on Consumer Effects of Net Neutrality

(p. A25) TORONTO — The Federal Communications Commission is planning to jettison its network neutrality rules, and many Americans are distraught. Such a move, the Electronic Frontier Foundation warned, “invites a future where only the largest internet, cable and telephone companies survive, while every start-up, small business and new innovator is crowded out — and the voices of nonprofits and ordinary individuals are suppressed.”
Critics worry that getting rid of neutrality regulation will lead to a “two-tier” internet: Internet service providers will start charging fees to websites and apps, and slow down or block the sites that don’t pay up. As a result, users will have unfettered access to only part of the internet, with the rest either inaccessible or slow.
Those fears are vastly overblown.
. . .
So why am I not worried? I worked for a telecommunications company for 25 years, and whatever one may think about corporate control over the internet, I know that it simply is not in service providers’ interests to throttle access to what consumers want to see. Neutral broadband access is a cash cow; why would they kill it?
. . .
The good news is that we will soon have a real-world experiment to show who is right and who is wrong. The United States will get rid of its rules, and the European Union and Canada will keep their stringent regulations. In two years, will the American internet be slower, less innovative and split into two tiers, leaving Canadians to enjoy their fast and neutral net?
Or, as I suspect, will the two markets remain very similar — proving that this whole agonized debate has been a giant waste of time? Let’s check back in 2019.

For the full commentary, see:
Ken Engelhart. “Losing Net Neutrality: Nothing to Be Afraid Of.” The New York Times (Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2017): A25.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date Dec. 4, 2017, and has the title “Why Concerns About Net Neutrality Are Overblown.” The online version says that the New York edition ran the commentary on p. A27, instead of the A25 page on which it appeared in my National Edition copy.)

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