History will remember the day that the FCC acted to adopt a rational and balanced regulatory framework of internet governance. A day when the FCC Chairman reflected on a debate that was “more heat than light,” on the vital need for investment in broadband infrastructure in the United States and on the dangers of an overly intrusive regulatory regime, noting that “government must not overreach by imposing [internet] rules that are overly restrictive or that assume perfect knowledge about this dynamic and rapidly changing marketplace.”
Then, as now, the FCC rejected reliance on the overly-regulatory and outdated framework found in Title II, dismissing ideological arguments in favor of the hard work of understanding technology, investment incentives, real world consumer experiences and the limits of the statute that authorizes FCC action.
In many ways, this week represents a return to that moment in 2010, when rational policymaking will rise above heated and empty rhetoric, and when shrill calls to “save” a platform that is not being threatened are rejected in favor of informed legal and policy analysis. Indeed, the heat of the debate over the last few weeks, particularly on social media platforms, calls to mind the BS Asymmetry Principle, as coined on Twitter by Alberto Brandolini. The BAP states that the amount of energy needed to refute BS is an order of magnitude bigger than to produce it. Sadly, an enormous amount of energy has been spent lately predicting apocalyptic internet impacts that will never materialize.
The fact is that the internet has been a platform of innovation and entrepreneurship for close to 30 years. Nothing about tomorrow’s vote will change that. What will change is that this country will return to a rational regulatory framework similar to the one that capably governed the internet for decades before the Title II fever captured the FCC in 2015.
There is one more notable event from 2010 that should be remembered: Tim Berners-Lee took to the pages of Scientific American in support of an open internet. More specifically, he called for a web where people could publish anything they want; a web fully accessible by people with disabilities; and a web that could be accessed from any device. That web has existed for years and will continue to exist into the future. In that regard, Berners-Lee’s concerns have been proven unwarranted. But Berners-Lee also worried about social-networking sites, criticizing their curated platforms in which info is self-contained and self-controlled. He may have been on to something there.