‘Internet Slowdown Day’ Pushes for Internet Regulation

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Netflix and other tech companies that collectively call themselves “Team Internet” hosted an “Internet slowdown day” on Wednesday to encourage their users to support utility-style regulation of Internet providers under Title II of the 1996 Telecom Act.

The sites will not actually operate at lower speeds, but rather will feature a loading icon “to remind everyone what an internet without net neutrality would look like.” (RELATED: Your Internet is Slow Today Because of Net Neutrality)

The coalition’s main concern has to do with “paid prioritization,” which involves internet providers charging websites for faster connection speeds. “Erecting toll booths or designating fast lanes on the information superhighway,” they say, “would stifle free speech, limit consumer choice, and thwart innovation.” (RELATED: The FCC Wants MORE Public Opinion on Net Neutrality)

If paid prioritization is not prohibited, they argue, fees for faster connection speeds will create artificial barriers to entry and “result in fewer innovative startups, fewer micro-entrepreneurs, and fewer diverse voices in the public square.”

Other groups, however, disagree with that assessment. Berin Szoka, president of Tech Freedom, told reporters during a conference call Wednesday morning that regulation under Title II “would shatter 16 years of bipartisan consensus…and doesn’t even do what those who are pushing for it say it would do.”

Although Title II would allow the FCC to prevent Internet providers from charging different prices to different website, he said that, “one thing the FCC can’t do is ensure that no price is charged.” (RELATED: The Consumer Costs of Net Neutrality)

Szoka also argued that regulating the Internet as a utility would discourage future broadband deployment, pointing out that similar regulations in Europe have dramatically slowed the expansion of broadband networks there.

Former FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell has also spoken out strongly against regulating the Internet under Title II. In a 2010 op-ed, he said that, “the best way to keep the Internet open, operating, and growing is to maintain the current model,” which has “a perfect record of keeping the Web working.”

More recently, he testified to the House Judiciary Committee in June that, “a new body of regulations is not needed and may, in fact, cause harmful unintended consequences.” He argued that existing laws are sufficient to address any potential market failures, and warned that new rules could “spur international efforts to regulate the Internet.”

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