F.C.C. Invokes Internet Freedom While Trying to Kill It

Large telecommunications companies have been raking in profits in recent years. And they have been making multibillion-dollar acquisitions — not something you see from an industry that is withering from senseless regulations. Charter spent more than $65 billion last year to buy Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks. AT&T bought DirecTV for $48.5 billion in 2015 and is trying to buy Time Warner, the media company, for $85 billion.

Not only is Mr. Pai’s lament for the broadband industry based on alternative facts, it misses the bigger point. Net neutrality is meant to benefit the internet and the economy broadly, not just the broadband industry. That means the commission ought to consider the impact the regulations have on consumers and businesses. In particular, the commission has a responsibility to protect people with few or no choices; most Americans have access to just one or two companies for residential service and just four big operators for wireless.

Mr. Pai argues that if the Wheeler rules are revoked, some safeguards will remain. For example, he says, broadband companies would refrain from blocking or slowing the content of competitors. He has not said how he would ensure that. But the F.C.C. is considering using voluntary commitments from the industry.

Under that approach, officials at the Federal Trade Commission would have the power to fine or sue companies that make pledges and then fail to uphold them. But it is hard to believe that voluntary standards would be strong enough. It also puts the onus on individuals and small businesses to complain to regulators and request investigations.

Under Mr. Pai’s proposal, broadband companies would probably use their gatekeeping position to give themselves a leg up. AT&T, for example, already encourages people to buy the streaming video service of its DirecTV subsidiary by allowing customers to watch it on AT&T’s wireless network without incurring data…

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