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If you can read this, the internet is still here.
A year ago, you might have wondered if this would be the case come Christmas, 2018. In December 2017, the FCC repealed the controversial net neutrality rules. At the time, our own Sen. Amy Klobuchar wrote
As a strong supporter of a free and open internet, I am opposed to the Federal Communications Commission’s vote to eliminate net neutrality rules. These important protections prevent internet service providers from blocking, slowing and prioritizing web traffic. This vote will harm consumers, particularly in rural areas. It will limit competition. And it will hurt small business entrepreneurship and innovation. I will continue to push for a free and open internet.
Sen. Bernie Sanders cranked up the hysterics even further…
— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) December 14, 2017
But here we all are a year on. The internet still exists. It managed to survive the repeal of some regulations that were passed in February 2015, several years after it began operation. Who could have expected such a thing? Well, a few people, as it turns out.
Indeed, according to Recode, internet speeds have actually increased by nearly 40% since net neutrality was abolished. Last week, they reported that
The internet is getting faster, especially fixed broadband internet. Broadband download speeds in the U.S. rose 35.8 percent and upload speeds are up 22 percent from last year, according to internet speed-test company Ookla in its latest U.S. broadband report.
Ditch the hysterics and try discussing things sensibly
The FCC’s net neutrality vote was never a threat to consumers, in rural areas or elsewhere, and it didn’t hurt small business entrepreneurship and innovation, as Sen. Klobuchar warned. It certainly didn’t risk “the end of the internet as we know it”, as Sen. Sanders said. So why did they say that it did?
Perhaps they didn’t know any better. American politics gives people power over things they often don’t understand. House Republicans drew laughs with their technologically inept questioning of Google CEO Sundar Pichai recently, but we should also be laughing at Sen. Klobuchar and Sen. Sanders. We should also question whether bigger government policies – which give ever more power over ever more of American life to people who cannot know enough to exercise it – are actually sensible.
Or maybe they did know better. Maybe Sen. Sanders and Sen. Klobuchar did know that the things they were saying last December were, at best, outrageous exaggerations. Maybe they went with these to fire up their base. If so, it worked. Like me, you might have seen friends on social media repeating Sen. Sanders’ outlandish claims.
But at what cost was this temporary enthusiasm bought? Politicians – of whichever party – cannot keep calling things which are not existential threats existential threats. For one thing, people will be less inclined to believe you when a real existential threat comes along. For another, a healthy society and polity cannot survive at that pitch of hysteria.
Calm it down, for the good of the country.
John Phelan is an economist at the Center of the American Experiment.