Gigi Sohn saw a grim future in web browsing when a Federal Appeal Court in 2010 shook a number of rules related to “net neutrality”. Most of us would have to experience a slow website, while a handful of powerful online businesses could access the fastest connections.
Sohn, who was then the president of Public Knowledge, an progressive consumer rights group, stated, “You cannot have innovation if all big companies get priority.” The New York Times. “Look at Google, eBay, Yahoo—none of those companies would have survived if 15 years ago we had a fast lane and a slow lane on the Internet.”
Sohn was the nominee of President Joe Biden to the Federal Communications Commission’s tiebreaking, crucial vacancy. Sohn played a key role in Obama’s attempts to reinstate net neutrality regulations for 2015. After ThatIn 2017, the Trump administration scrapped a version of internet service provider rules (ISPs). She went back to her prediction that online experiences would worsen and consumers will be treated unfairly. Sohn stated to CNN that those with a fast lane will place people who can’t pay or won’t in the slow lanes.
There have been many changes in the internet ecosystem, including federal regulations regarding online traffic. The only thing that has remained constant in the last decade is a steady rise in internet speed and overall bandwidth. From 2010 to 2020, the average data consumption by U.S. households rose 37-fold,” economist Thomas W. Hazlett noted in the August 2021 issue of Reason.Today’s online apps are nothing compared to the ones available at that time when Sohn first worried about slow internet speeds. The average home internet speed in 2009 was just five megabits per second—barely enough to stream Netflix in high definition, as long as you weren’t doing anything else at the same time. The internet today was able to support the rapid rise in home schooling due to COVID-19.
It is possible to say we were all in the “fast track.”
However, the Biden administration is determined to restore net neutrality. It’s a term used to describe a number of federal regulations that require ISPs operating as public utilities. It might be more accurate to say that the Biden administration—and Sohn, whose nomination could go before the Senate for a final vote within the next few days or weeks, according to The Wall Street Journal—is stuck in the past, pushing a solution to a problem that never really existed and certainly doesn’t right now.
This is not surprising given that Biden has focused largely on reuniting the tech regulatory community after his presidency. Sohn served as an advisor to Tom Wheeler during his tenure as Obama’s FCC Chairman. Her key role was in creating the 2015 agency’s net neutrality order. The current FCC chairperson, Jessica Rosenworcel was first appointed by Obama to the Commission in 2011. She was reappointed in 2017 by President Donald Trump. Tim Wu, an Obama adviser and widely recognized for coining this term. net neutralityBiden now has a National Economic Council chaired by.
This is why we are doing it all again. But the major blind spot in Sohn’s net neutrality crusade is the same as it’s ever been—and the same one that beguiles many pro-regulation advocates, regardless of the specific industry or situation. The zero-sum mentality presumes that consumers will be manipulated by private business to grow their market share if there is no direct government regulation.
In reality, however, internet providers haven’t spent the past decade fighting over slices of the pie but rather have worked to greatly expand the size of the pie itself—benefiting their bottom lines, of course, but also greatly enhancing what consumers and internet-based businesses get to experience.
Also, she overlooks the negative effects of government regulation which can keep the pie growing. Since 1996, more than $1.7 billion has been invested by private companies in the construction of wired, wireless and cable internet. Private investment in expanding internet service declined significantly during the period Sohn’s net neutrality rules were in place. Mark Jamison, senior fellow at American Enterprise Institute (a conservative think tank), summarized the situation at that time. “Only Sohn’s dot-com bust or the Great Recession have caused such declines in past.”
The bigger the private sector invests, the more innovation opportunities there are. It is impossible to look at the internet in 2022 without seeing that there are more opportunities for innovation than the one Sohn saw in 2010. Uber, TikTok and many other popular online services didn’t even exist in 2010. This would have made it impossible Below the speed of the internet and the bandwidth that is available at all times. Favoring regulation would be to favour stagnation. We’d have lost those innovative ideas and all that is next.
Sohn knows only one song and will continue singing it. “I’m very worried that broadband has gone without oversight for 4 years, which is essential,” Sohn told the Senate during her December confirmation hearing.
One might ask, if ISPs are going to make the slow lanes she has been concerned about for many years, then why haven’t they made them in the five year since net neutrality rules of the FCC were repealed. The best evidence that Sohn and other pro-regulation forces can muster are anecdotal situations in which consumers and ISPs came into conflict over the terms of service—including one high-profile case where Verizon was accused of throttling broadband service to the Santa Clara County Fire Department while it battled a major wildfire. That’s a problem, of course, but it’s not at all clear that the appropriate response is widespread government regulation of the internet as a public utility—and, regardless, the Federal Trade Commission already has the ability to settle those types of disputes when they arise.
Net neutrality supporters have warned about the worst scenarios for years, but they have yet to come true. These were, in fact, figments from the imagination.
The same applies to the other New York Times In the 2010 piece, Sohn was quoted by Edward Wyatt. Wyatt also noted that Comcast and other major Internet service providers have not yet restricted certain types of Web content, and they don’t plan to.
In 2010, the internet changed dramatically. It is disheartening to see that this political debate has not changed.