OP-ED CONTRIBUTOR

Millennials Stand to Lose if the Feds Control the Internet

It’s common knowledge that young people love the internet. And in case you needed any proof, consider one study that found that individuals born between 1980 and early 2000s are heavy internet users. In fact, users age 25 to 34 years old had the highest monthly average of internet usage amongst all groups last year. This is happening because the internet is how we connect with friends, consume news and watch our favorite television shows and movies.

Unfortunately, this online freedom is coming under attack by some who are convinced that what the internet needs is more government regulation.

Under the guise of “fairness,” proponents of increased federal control over the internet found support from the previous administration. With former President Barack Obama’s blessing, the Federal Communications Commission approved a plan in 2015 to reclassify internet service providers as utilities under a law dating back to the 1930s. By reclassifying ISPs as a utility, the internet is now subject to a vast and complicated regime of rules and regulations that limit consumer choice.

To be sure, the internet, like any other industry, must contend with some rules and regulations. But when they become unnecessarily burdensome, innovation and growth suffer. This is not an abstract argument. Since the FCC approved so-called net neutrality in 2015, investment in broadband infrastructure has declined for the first time ever outside of a recession. We have also seen some smaller ISPs being squeezed out of the marketplace, meaning consumers have fewer choices to access the internet.

There are other unintended consequences when the government meddles with the internet. Popular unlimited streaming services without data limits may now come under increased scrutiny. And internet service providers may be forced to pass on the higher costs of doing business – to say nothing of the higher taxes that will likely result. In short, consumers lose when the government is calling the shots.

This is the opposite of what has allowed the internet to flourish in the span of one lifetime. Beginning in the late 1990s under President Bill Clinton, the internet has largely operated with little government control, allowing companies like Facebook, Twitter and Google to compete and innovate. Light touch government regulation has also helped drive down the cost of going online to consumers not just here in the United States, but also to billions around the world.

Thankfully, the new chairman of the FCC agrees. Since assuming leadership of the commission earlier this year, Ajit Pai has been working to roll back the stifling Obama-era rules to return the power of the internet back to consumers and the public.

This will benefit everybody, but this is particularly personal for millennials and young consumers who have grown up online and are driving much of the innovation that we see in Silicon Valley. Tumblr, Mashable and Snapchat are just a handful of the many tech companies that millennials have helped start that are changing the way we live.

But if bureaucrats and special interest groups have their way, the government will control the internet and pick winners and losers.

As the policy director of Generation Opportunity, an organization of millennials who believe in individual liberty and entrepreneurship, we are strong proponents of the idea that a free market telecommunications policy is the best approach when it comes to regulating the internet.

Younger consumers want a better, faster, cheaper internet – and a one-size-fits-all regulation that reflects the world of the 1930s is not the answer.

 

David Barnes is the policy director of Generation Opportunity.

Morning Consult welcomes op-ed submissions on policy, politics and business strategy in our coverage areas. Updated submission guidelines can be found here.

Briefings

Tech Brief: Lobbying Tech Groups Target NAFTA Renegotiations

According to data from the Center for Responsive Politics, the number of tech companies and trade associations registered to lobby U.S., Canadian and Mexican government officials has more than doubled in the last few months. Companies like Cisco Systems Inc. and Microsoft Corp. are looking to zero out tariffs for tech goods and remove restrictions on cloud storage as officials prepare to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Tech Brief: Intel CEO Leaves Trump’s Manufacturing Council

Brian Krzanich, Intel Corp.’s chief executive, joined the chief executives of Merck and Under Armour in announcing that he would leave Trump’s council on American manufacturing following the president’s response to violence during a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va. Krzanich said he resigned “to call attention to the serious harm our divided political climate is causing to critical issues.” 

Tech Brief: Week in Review & What’s Ahead

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit will not block the Federal Communications Commission’s April decision to eliminate price caps for much of the business broadband market. The FCC’s business data services ruling deems certain local markets as competitive, even when there is only one broadband service provider.

Tech Brief: Benchmark Capital Sues Former Uber CEO Kalanick

Benchmark Capital is suing Uber Technologies Inc.’s co-founder and former CEO Travis Kalanick for not honoring the terms of his resignation and allegedly trying to stack the company’s board with allies to prepare for a return as CEO. The Silicon Valley venture firm, one of Uber’s biggest shareholders, alleges that Kalanick is attempting to “entrench himself for his own selfish ends” — an accusation a Kalanick spokesman called “without merit.”

Tech Brief: Kaspersky Lab, Microsoft Reach Antitrust Resolution

Cybersecurity firm Kaspersky Lab plans to withdraw antitrust complaints it made in Europe against Microsoft Corp. after the U.S. tech company agreed to work with outside antivirus vendors on delivery of its security updates for Windows users. The Moscow-based security company in June accused Microsoft of abusing its dominance in the computer market by favoring its own antivirus software over those of independent security companies.

Load More