WASHINGTON, DC – Eighty-seven percent of the U.S. population regularly use the Internet to stay in touch with friends and family and to do other activities such as conducting business and shopping online, according to the Pew Research Center.
Pew began keeping track of Internet usage in the year 2000 when the Center reported that nearly half of adult Americans said they were not users. “In the intervening 17 years the great majority of us got into the habit, including the country’s older citizens,” says senior advocate Dan Weber, president of the Association of Mature American Citizens [AMAC].
But, Weber points out, not all the users on the Internet today – particularly elderly users – are particularly savvy about how it works “and many are confused about the brouhaha that’s been stirred up in the wake of the FCC’s decision to put an end to what is known as ‘net neutrality’. The fact is that it’s much ado about nothing.”
The decision by the Obama administration to begin regulating the Internet was “baffling,” says Weber. “Why fix something that’s not broken? The Internet came into existence in 1989 and for more than a quarter of a century it was regulated by the Federal Trade Commission and operated smoothly and without infringing on the rights of those who went online. But, in 2015 the FCC decided to begin treating the Internet as if it were a telecommunications company subject to government regulation. They wanted to add another layer of so-called protection, which has proven to be unnecessary and restrictive.”
The Trump administration’s FCC sought to put an end to neutrality because, as Clyde Wayne Crews, Policy director at Competitive Enterprise Institute, put it: “Net neutrality is yet another example of economic regulation that flies in the face of every proper tenet of wealth creation and expansion of consumer welfare.”
Weber believes that the FCC’s decision to repeal net neutrality will have a beneficial impact on the Internet. He cites an article recently published on AMAC’s Web site Net Neutrality: A Primer. The authors explain that: “Despite the rhetoric, the FCC’s decision to return to the light-touch regulation of pre-2015 does not pose an existential threat to the Internet. Ultimately, the net neutrality debate boils down to a discussion about whether existing antitrust law is sufficient to guard against the anticompetitive harm of vertical foreclosure, and if not, whether the FCC’s additional prophylactic rules do more harm than good.”
Those who stand fast to protect the net neutrality rules argue that it will end protections for consumers who use the Internet. But, the reality is that robust protections remain in place via the Federal Trade Commission. The fact of the matter is that when the Internet was classified as a common carrier in order to enable net neutrality, it took away the FTC’s ability to protect users from unfair and illegal practices, Weber explains.
“The madness is that pro-neutrality protestors appear to be arguing against their own best interests. Internet users will continue to have choices. They will continue to receive full disclosure from their broadband providers as to pricing and priority practices. And, perhaps most important, they will continue to have access to Netflix, Amazon and to the entire information highway.”
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