Communications and Technology

Myths vs. Facts: Net Neutrality

President Biden’s FCC defied reason and reinstated Obama-era Net Neutrality rules, a loss for consumers.

Six years ago, thanks to the leadership of former Chairman Ajit Pai, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) successfully repealed problematic Obama-era net neutrality rules that classified internet service as a common carrier public utility.

While the phrase “net neutrality” may sound benign, the Obama FCC invoked Title II of the Communications Act of 1934 to strictly regulate the internet in the same way landline telephone monopolies were regulated in the 1930s. At the time, ALEC cautioned that regulating the internet as a Title II service granted unprecedented, sweeping powers to the federal government over broadband markets, including the possibility of government rate-setting and impediments to broadband infrastructure investment.

When net neutrality rightly fell off the books in 2018, advocates on the Left were apoplectic at this turn of events. Once President Biden assumed office in 2021, his Administration almost immediately began laying the groundwork to undo Chairman Pai’s “Restoring Internet Freedom Order” and revive strict government regulations on broadband internet.

At the time, the FCC’s 2-2 partisan split required bipartisan support and cooperation with Republican-appointed commissioners for the agency’s rulings. However, once the third Democratic commissioner was seated in Fall 2023, Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel launched the rulemaking process, resulting in a party line 3-2 vote in April 2024 to officially bring back Title II regulations.

Throughout this debate, there have been a lot of misconceptions about what “net neutrality” means exactly, and how consumers, businesses, and state lawmakers will be impacted by the change in policy at the FCC yet again.

In the latest edition of Myths vs. Facts, ALEC debunks the most common, egregious claims about net neutrality, and calls on Congress to free broadband internet from unnecessarily burdensome government meddling. Let’s settle this debate once and for all so our nation’s broadband providers can focus on the task at hand: Closing the digital divide and connecting all Americans with free market, technology-neutral solutions.


Myth #1: The internet will end as we know it if net neutrality is repealed.

Fact: When net neutrality was repealed in the 2018-2024 era, the internet was arguably the best it has ever been for consumers.

Net neutrality has come and gone in various forms since 2005. Believe it or not, the concept of net neutrality has been fiercely debated for nearly two decades among lawmakers, policy advocates, and the telecom industry. The American Enterprise Institute’s Will Rinehart recently chronicled the extended history of U.S. net neutrality regulations in a detailed piece for The Dispatch:

  • 2005: The FCC adopted a policy statement “to ensure that providers of telecommunications for internet access are operated in a neutral manner” and that broadband networks be open, affordable, and accessible.
  • 2010: In Comcast v. FCC, net neutrality rules were struck down in the courts. The FCC issues new net neutrality rules in response, claiming that “broadband providers have the incentive and ability to limit internet openness.”
  • 2014: In Verizon v. FCC, net neutrality rules were again struck down by the courts.
  • 2015: The Wheeler FCC issues the draconian Open Internet Order, reclassifying broadband as a Title II “common carrier” service under the Communications Act of 1934 instead of a Title I “information service.”
  • 2018: The Pai FCC issues the Restoring Internet Freedom Order, rescinding the Obama-era net neutrality rules and reclassifying broadband as a Title I information service.
  • 2024: With a partisan 3-2 majority restored at the agency, the Rosenworcel FCC issues the Safeguarding and Securing the Open Internet Order, reversing the Trump-era reversal of net neutrality and once again reclassifying broadband as a Title II common carrier service.

Despite net neutrality’s repeal in 2018, the internet is still here, and arguably the best it has ever been for users. The Title II common carrier regime, which originated from a 90-year-old law designed to address 1930s telephone monopolies, is a poor fit to ensure the modern internet remains truly free and open to all.

As the private sector mobilizes billions of dollars in telecom resources and taxpayer funds to close the digital divide, it is unsustainable and unnecessarily burdensome for our nation’s internet regulations to so wildly ping-pong with each new Administration. Enough is enough: Congress must settle this debate once and for all by codifying the core net neutrality principles (no blocking, no throttling, no unfair discrimination) while solidifying broadband regulation under the lighter-touch, Title I information service regime.

Myth #2: Repealing net neutrality would grind consumer internet speeds to a halt and lead to higher costs for consumers.

Fact: Broadband speeds are way up, while prices have dropped. It’s a win-win for consumers.

In 2017, net neutrality hawks repeated the baseless claim that internet speeds would plummet if net neutrality regulations were repealed, often arguing as a scare tactic that the internet would load “One. Word. At. A. Time.”

With six years’ worth of quantitative data and research to scrutinize, this fearmongering can definitively be put to rest. These hyperbolic assertions never came to pass, and in fact, the exact opposite occurred.

According to USTelecom’s 2023 Broadband Pricing Index, real broadband prices have plummeted more than half from 2015 to 2023, while download speeds increased by 141.5% and upload speeds soared by an astonishing 284.6%. The report notes that even without factoring in inflation, “broadband prices continue to substantially lag the rising cost of overall consumer goods and services, which climbed 4.9% from March 2022 to March 2023.”

Source: USTelecom

The trend holds true for the cellular side of the equation. In its 2023 Annual Survey, CTIA – The Wireless Association found that the cost per megabyte of mobile data decreased by 98% from 2012 to 2022, while breakthroughs in new technologies like Fixed Wireless Access and LEO satellites have increased competition in the home broadband market.

Ookla’s yearly analysis of actual 2023 speedtest data backs up CTIA’s finding, noting that U.S. fixed wireless speeds have appreciably increased (26% improvement in download, 7% improvement in upload). Growing competition in the broadband market is a significant factor explaining this boost; according to Ookla, “In this very competitive market, with a range of access technologies vying for customers […] 5G fixed-wireless access and faster cable connections [are] helping drive higher performance levels.”

Consider this myth officially debunked: Repealing Title II did not slash broadband speeds, and the cost of internet service did not increase.

Myth #3: The FCC is the only agency that can adequately protect broadband consumers and address national security and cybersecurity concerns.

Fact: The FCC is ill-equipped for this mission. The federal government already has the capacity and resources to address consumer protection and security concerns through existing regulations at other agencies.

The positive impact on both internet speeds and broadband investment since 2018 is an inconvenient truth for those clamoring for a return to net neutrality. As a result, Title II advocates pivoted, and they now characterize Title II regulations as a national security and cybersecurity imperative in the post-COVID-19 era.

When justifying the need to revive net neutrality rules, Chairwoman Rosenworcel argued that the FCC “threw its authority away [under Chairman Pai] and decided that broadband needed no supervision.” Rosenworcel suggested that without her agency’s involvement, “It is not enough to keep our adversaries at bay. There are vulnerabilities in our broadband networks and our ability to do something about them was sidelined by the last FCC withdrawing from this arena.”

Suddenly, in 2024, we are led to believe that this very specific provision of the Communications Act of 1934 is the only remedy to protect Americans from cyber threats, service outages, and national security concerns. Talk about grasping at straws!

This claim simply does not pass the smell test. In the latest net neutrality proceedings, the Biden Administration suggested that our nation’s broadband infrastructure is somehow uniquely vulnerable without Title II common carrier regulations in place. However, as Commissioner Brendan Carr explained, there are already “multiple cops on the beat” tasked with protecting internet users and our nation’s broadband infrastructure, such as:

  • The Federal Trade Commission, which enforces federal consumer protection law against internet service providers;
  • The Department of Homeland Security, including the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA);
  • The Justice Department, including the FBI; and
  • The Department of the Treasury

The national security case for Title II is flimsy at best considering there are numerous existing agencies with more resources, better expertise, and the Congressional mandate to address cyber threats. This is nothing more than a red herring used to justify a return to strict regulation of the internet.