Although he has recently tried to obscure his position, Congressman Goodlatte is a staunch opponent of the net neutrality rule adopted by the Federal Communications Commission in 2015– a rule which the FCC is preparing to rescind in December.
Net neutrality simply guarantees equal and open access to all internet content for all users.
According to the Save the Internet website:
Without Net Neutrality, cable and phone companies could carve the internet into fast and slow lanes. An ISP could slow down its competitors’ content or block political opinions it disagreed with. ISPs could charge extra fees to the few content companies that could afford to pay for preferential treatment — relegating everyone else to a slower tier of service. This would destroy the open internet.
The internet without Net Neutrality isn’t really the internet. Unlike the open internet that has paved the way for so much innovation and given a platform to people who have historically been shut out, it would become a closed-down network where cable and phone companies call the shots and decide which websites, content or applications succeed.
This would have an enormous impact. Companies like AT&T, Comcast and Verizon would be able to decide who is heard and who isn’t. They’d be able to block websites or content they don’t like or applications that compete with their own offerings.
After the FCC adopted net neutrality in 2015, Goodlatte called it “the most heavy-handed regulatory regime imaginable.” He wrote:
The order will undoubtedly raise Internet service costs, discourage investment, and slow broadband speeds. It’s currently estimated that we will see $11 billion in new taxes and fees. It will reduce consumer choice as well.
In fact there is no evidence that any of this has happened. An investigation by the Internet Association, a trade group representing leading internet companies, found:
–No negative impact on telecom infrastructure investment, broadband infrastructure investment, or cable infrastructure investment – utilizing a variety of techniques and checks, the paper finds no slowdown in investment in the USA compared to other OECD countries and no causal impact overall from the FCC policies on investment
–No capacity or bottlenecking issues for the telecommunications industry – as reflected by production prices below those of the late 1990s/early 2000s
–No evidence of industry harm – aggregate corporate net income and equity have increased steadily since approximately 2008
–No impact on industry innovation by telecom providers – as reflected by a sharp and consistent rise in capacity, speeds, and patents.
Instead of net neutrality rules, Goodlatte advocates stronger enforcement of antitrust laws. But as Joshua Stager of New America’s Open Technology Institute wrote, net neutrality regulations and antitrust enforcement are not mutually exclusive:
A net neutrality regime that relies solely on antitrust analysis would be narrowly focused on pricing harms, such as those found in cartels and monopolies. Such a legal theory may prevent some paid prioritization schemes, but it cannot address the non-economic goals of net neutrality such as free speech, political participation and viewpoint diversity. The FCC is empowered to protect this broader array of social benefits. An antitrust-only approach would be piecemeal at best, as remedies are typically applied to a single actor rather than as industry-wide rules. This approach can be useful in some contexts, but it shouldn’t be the only tool in the government’s toolkit.
Because big internet service providers like AT&T, Comcast and Verizon have been among the strongest opponents of net neutrality, it’s worth noting that during all his campaigns for Congress, Goodlatte received $85,750 in donations from AT&T (his third largest contributor), $77,150 from Comcast (his eighth largest contributor) and $73,649 from Verizon (his tenth largest contributor).