Ajit Pai Didn’t Kill the Internet — He Made it Stronger

by Michi Iljazi

This month marks the anniversary of the death of the internet. Or so I read on Twitter.

In December 2017, the FCC passed the Restoring Internet Freedom Order on a party-line vote to repeal the Obama administration’s broadband utility rules. Leading up to and upon passage of that order, Democrat lawmakers and professional alarmists in the Beltway’s permanent outrage class declared “the end of the internet as we know it.” Without federal bureaucrats imposing their vision of “neutrality” on the Internet, the world would surely end.

By the time the RIF Order went into effect last June, the alarms had grown louder. Chuck Schumer predicted we’d no longer be able to watch a baseball game on our phones. The ACLU warned that the internet would become so slow that websites would load one word at a time. A Northwestern University professor whose academic specialty is television (good work if you can get it!) predicted that FCC Chairman Ajit Pai had effectively “kill[ed] the TV revolution.” Engine, a Google-backed astroturf group that claims to speak for startups, warned that Pai’s deregulatory vision “would severely curtail startup activity.”

Now, more than a year into the Restoring Internet Freedom era, it’s worth seeing how these predictions have held up: not well.

For starters, consumers are experiencing the internet faster than they were last year. In fact, average broadband speeds (both wired and wireless) have gotten 28% faster in the U.S. over the past year. According to American Customer Satisfaction Index latest study, “Video streaming services are the top performers for customer satisfaction among the five telecom industries, improving 1.3%.”

While the American people were bombarded with scaremongering about the quality of the Internet taking a dive, even the liberal Washington Post gave Senate Democrats “three Pinocchios” for these absurd claims.

Next, let’s consider how the streaming video revolution has fared since Pai and his Republican FCC colleagues unshackled the internet from President Barack Obama’s utility-style neutrality rules. Is the TV revolution really dead? Did New York Magazine’s Brian Feldman get it right when he predicted the FCC’s decision “will mess with your Netflix?”

Hardly. In fact, the streaming video marketplace is more vibrant, competitive, and robust than ever before. Netflix just posted their best quarter of subscriber growthin history. After spending $9 billion on content in 2017, Netflix responded to the FCC’s vote (if it affected their thinking at all) by increasing content spending to $12 billion in 2018 and to a projected $15 billion this coming year. Hulu, Amazon, and Apple are all increasing their budgets, looking to keep up creatively and stay competitive in the battle for our screen-hours.

All of these massive content budgets indicate that creators have more opportunities to produce more diverse programming for an ever-growing audience. If Pai really killed the TV revolution, it appears most TV fans have been too busy binge-watching new shows to have noticed.

How about the claim from Democrats and the professional Left that repealing net neutrality would devastate the startup ecosystem? Wrong again.

Venture capitalists were so “alarmed” by the potential impact on startups that their venture investments soared to a record high in the year after the FCC’s vote, exceeding even the boom years of the original dot-com bubble. The past two quarters have been the most prolific in the past decade for new VC investments in startups. Additionally, the IPO market for tech stops has been red hot, giving startup entrepreneurs and investors a stronger path than ever to successful “exits” into the public markets.

In other words, since Pai “killed the internet,” consumers are experiencing all of these new offerings over faster-than-ever networks, there’s now more investment flowing into startups, and more money going to create streaming video content.

Has the internet slowed to a crawl, limiting Chuck Schumer’s ability to watch his beloved Yankees on his phone? Of course not. The doomsayers on the Left in the Democrat Party were not just slightly out of touch — they were completely, unequivocally, undeniably incorrect.

But if you’re thinking this experience has left them humbled, contrite, or apologetic … well, then you’d be wrong, too.

Instead, Democrats continued to cry on Senate floor demanding reinstatement of Obama’s utility rules. And states like California, New Jersey, and Vermont are even trying to disrupt the benefits consumers have enjoyed by passing legislation to reinstate those Obama-era rules at the local level.

Like Lucy holding Charlie Brown’s football, the same people that got it all so wrong a year ago are still insisting that the Internet is going to break any day now. “It’s not going to die overnight,” admitted the Leftist advocacy group Fight for the Future, “But every day that passes until #NetNeutrality is restored, the Internet is getting less awesome.”

Yet every day that passes, the opposite of that is true. Probably because greater choice and competition help to create faster networks. Sounds pretty awesome to me.

This article was published in The Washington Examiner