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EDITORIAL: Dire predictions about net neutrality repeal were folly

Perhaps you’re reading this online. If so, you can be thankful that Donald Trump’s FCC failed to kill so-called net neutrality regulations, which would have ended the internet as we know it.

Or not.

Remember the “net neutrality” debate? In 2015 under Barack Obama, the FCC used a Depression-era law to essentially deem internet service providers to be public utilities subject to the whims of regulators and politicians. This was supposed to “protect” a “free and open” internet.

Two years later — and four years ago this month — a new FCC chief under President Trump repealed the Obama-era rules, leading a parade of progressive pundits to warn in typical shrill fashion that the internet would be forever harmed by rapacious capitalists intent on exploiting online users for profit.

A sampling of the hysteria is instructive:

■ A headline in GQ magazine trumpeted, “How the FCC’s Killing of New Neutrality Will Ruin the Internet Forever.”

■ House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi warned that the move put “democracy,” “entrepreneurialism” and “American businesses” at risk.

■ Senate Democrats tweeted that if “we don’t save net neutrality, you’ll get the internet one word at a time.”

■ Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., called the FCC’s move “an egregious attack on our democracy.”

■ Planned Parenthood even got in on the act, calling the repeal “a stealth attack on feminism.”

Oh, my. It’s hard to overstate how hare-brained this all was. Before Mr. Obama decided to put the service providers under the thumb of the FCC, the internet had done just fine for more than 20 years under the light tutelage of the Federal Trade Commission.

The idea that “net neutrality” was necessary to save the internet was a wholly manufactured outlook, and the past four years prove it.

“Today, the internet is still here, and still functioning properly,” Robby Soave of Reason wrote last week. “Expectations that ISPs would practice widespread and improper discrimination did not pan out. On the contrary, the internet is better and faster for basically everybody than it was when net neutrality ended — in fact, it’s better and faster than at any point in the past.”

As Jim Fellinger pointed out last year on medium.com, “under ‘net neutrality’ regulations, broadband network investment dropped more than 5.6 percent — the first time a decline has happened outside of a recession.”

That decline was reversed thanks to Mr. Trump’s FCC. “Whether the naysayers are willing to admit it or not,” wrote Brittany Hunter of fee.org, “less government regulation results in better outcomes for both companies and consumers.”

Net neutrality isn’t dead — many Democrats can’t let go — but the arguments for it are long buried.

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