Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Telecom Industry Falsely Credits Reversal of Net Neutrality Laws in the United States for Internet Stability Under Strain

Telecom industry representatives and lobbyists have begun lining up behind the narrative that a lack of net neutrality legislation in the United States explains why it has so far fared well under increased use. For example, here’s an excerpt from a piece published by the American Enterprise Institute from Roslyn Layton:

While our lives have been upended by the coronavirus outbreak, many have transitioned to working, studying, receiving healthcare, and living the rest of life from home — all over broadband networks. Traffic is up 75 percent or more on many US networks, but they are still performing. Hundreds of communications providers have signed Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai’s Keep Americans Connected Pledge, a commitment that broadband and telephone services run for the next 60 days without late fees or termination due to unpaid bills. We should thank our lucky stars that Title II net neutrality regulations were repealed by the FCC in 2017. In doing so, the US avoided the fate of much of Europe today, where broadband networks are strained and suffering from a lack of investment and innovation.

Has Layton arrived at these claims independently? It’s hard to say. Her bio on the AEI website mentions that she worked for the FCC during the administration change from 2016–2017, and that she is vice president at Strand Consulting. Strand, it turns out, is a telecom lobbying organization based in Denmark.

Karl Bode, TechDirt:

[…] This entire narrative is fantasy — built almost entirely off of the EU simply asking various streaming companies to throttle certain services in an abundance of caution. There remains no evidence that this was due to any serious problems, and, at the same time, there’s been no evidence that US networks have measurably outperformed their EU counterparts (indeed, many of the companies that throttled services in the EU did so in the US as well). Investment at many US ISPs actually dropped post net neutrality repeal. And there’s literally no indication that US networks are somehow “more robust” than the EU because the FCC decided to ignore the public and obliterate its own authority at the behest of the telecom lobby. It’s just not a supportable claim.

It is a small mystery why ISPs in Canada and the E.U. have been able to maintain reliable networking infrastructure.

Sarcasm aside, there is nothing that U.S.-based ISPs have done to shore up their networks that would be impeded by well-crafted net neutrality legislation, like that which was overturned by Ajit Pai’s FCC. Meanwhile, AT&T is taking advantage of an increased audience for streaming media by announcing that HBO Max, which it owns, will be free for many internet and phone subscribers when it launches at the end of May.