NOTICE | Republicans drop winning argument in mobile technology software debate | Op-Ed

Having definitely won one of the most controversial public policy battles in recent memory in the ‘net neutrality’ debate, the Conservatives are on the verge of giving up almost all of their credibility to winning arguments, opening the door to the debate. leading to a massive expansion of regulatory powers across many sectors of society.

A little over four years ago, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) repealed Title II regulations – more commonly known as “net neutrality” – on Internet service providers (ISPs). Opponents of the ruling said the internet was such that we knew it was over, even going so far as to say web pages would load “one word at a time.”

Instead, however, Internet investments have grown by billions of dollars, and Internet speeds have increased by about 40% year over year. Left with a slight regulatory touch, the private sector flourished and provided superior service to the American people.

Conservatives have pushed back the overbreadth of net neutrality onto a platform of speech and property rights as well as fundamental economic principles that reject central planning. They argued that not only do ISPs have the right to manage their networks as they see fit, but that they are in the best position to manage networks in a way that best serves customers compared to a bureaucratic approach. descendant, command and control of Washington. .

This principled platform has proven to be fair in terms of investment and innovation. It has enabled the record deployment of fiber optic cables, paving the way for the deployment of newer and faster technologies in the future. It also helped keep the economy strong. While many European networks with their own variations in net neutrality regulations have struggled to meet the increased demand caused by global bottlenecks, the American Internet has risen to the challenge.

Sadly, many Republicans seem to have tossed this principled platform to the wind. For example, a recent bill, the Open App Markets Act (OAMA) – introduced by Sense. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn. ; Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn .; and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn. – would once again put the government’s heavy hand in private sector affairs. This time, however, it wouldn’t be the impacted telecommunications networks, but smart devices and app stores. However, the same destructive principles apply. The greater the regulatory burden, the less willing and able companies will be to devote resources to investment and innovation.

OAMA would force companies like Apple or Google to allow better access to third-party software developers on their devices. In the same way that Title II regulations denied ISPs the flexibility to handle disparate internet traffic on their networks, OAMA would hamper the ability of smart device manufacturers to keep potentially harmful applications or software off customer devices. .

The legislation also aims to allow application developers to access device ecosystems while limiting the ability of device and operating system producers to recover the costs of developing and maintaining these ecosystems. This sounds undeniably familiar to the arguments made by the tech giants that dominate web traffic against ISPs during the net neutrality debate. In either case, there is an attempt at free riding and to impose costs directly on consumers through public policy mandates. The only difference now is that Republicans have reversed their stance on the net neutrality debate.

From antitrust to section 230, the abandonment of winning principles of net neutrality is evident throughout the technology policy debate. There are dozens of pieces of legislation introduced or co-sponsored by Republican members of Congress aimed at effectively transforming tech companies and smart devices into public carriers, requiring them to host any content and allowing potential competitors to access the networks on which they are. have invested valuable capital. to build and maintain.

Aside from rank hypocrisy, the other problem is that the average American is much less constrained when it comes to choosing their device or online platform over their ISP. There are real economic, geographic and political constraints for Americans when it comes to choosing their ISPs. Republicans have rightly argued that the solution to these problems should encourage increased investment, deployment and therefore competition among ISPs while seeking to remove all regulatory barriers; the opposite of what the net neutrality regime has done.

In the tech industry, Americans don’t face these similar constraints. If they want a more open ecosystem, Google’s Android offers one over Apple’s iOS. Once online, they are not limited in similar terms to the platform services they use compared to their mobile and home broadband service providers. They can usually switch with one click.

Since Republicans believe there is insufficient competition online and in devices, they should look to their net neutrality principles for answers. Otherwise, they will quickly find themselves unable to mount a case against a new push for net neutrality and thus succeed in stifling the entire internet-based economy, from ISPs to platforms, in a bureaucratic quagmire without respect for fundamental rights and economic principles. .

• Patrick Hedger is Vice President of Policy for the Taxpayers Protection Alliance.

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