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EDITORIAL: Death of the internet was greatly exaggerated

It’s been a year since progressives moaned that the Trump administration had killed the internet. It’s certainly a shocker, but it turns out their hysteria was a tad overblown.

As Eric Boehm of Reason.com pointed out this week, last year’s vote by the Federal Communications Commission to end the Obama-era series of internet regulations known as “net neutrality” was met with all manner of doomsday prophecies by liberal activists. The move, they promised, would usher in a “rise in evil cable companies slowing consumers’ internet connections or the creation of an online dystopia where only those who can plop down fat stacks of cash to pay for premium connections can have fun.”

Not only has that not happened, but, according to the latest data from internet speed-test company Ookla, U.S. internet speeds are on the rise, and Cisco’s latest annual Visual Networking Index report shows the country has the higher per capita internet traffic on the planet.

In hindsight, the warnings are almost laughable. Here’s one that Mr. Boehm cites from GQ: “The illegal music you downloaded on Napster or Kazaa. The legal music you’ve streamed on Spotify. The countless hours of pornography you’ve watched. The movies and TV shows you’ve binged on Netflix and Amazon and Hulu. The dating site that helped you find the person you’re now married to. All of these things are thanks to net neutrality.”

The problem with the warnings, as Mr. Boehm highlights, is that all the things that progressives fretted people would lose if net neutrality was repealed already existed before it was implemented in 2015. In addition, the left’s caricature of the rapacious capitalist is so ingrained in the activist playbook that progressives remain oblivious to the market’s self-correcting mechanisms.

As Mr. Boehm surmises, internet service providers are hesitant to engage in any unscrupulous behavior because it would risk the return of federal regulation. He cites Wired’s Klint Finley, who speculates that “any egregious violations of the principles of net neutrality by broadband providers would provide ammunition to advocates who want the old rules restored.”

It’s also in the best interest of service providers to keep their customers happy.

“With wireless speeds now able to compete with traditional internet connections, cable companies such as Comcast have even more of a reason not to slow down service or ‘throttle’ websites,” he writes. “If I can’t watch Hulu on my Wi-Fi-connected TV, I’ll just stream it from my phone and think harder about cutting the cord.”

The next time you hear about the need for cumbersome “net neutrality” policies, remember the track record of those who predicted the end was nigh.

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