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A report from NPR’s news program All Things Considered on the federal appeals court decision upholding federal rules on net neutrality gave false equivalence to critics’ claims that net neutrality would “stifle innovation,” even though numerous tech experts and telecom companies have said the opposite. Tech experts have said net neutrality not only promotes competition, but that it also has been the guiding principle behind internet innovation since its inception.
The U.S. Court of Appeals, D.C. Circuit, in a June 14 decision upheld regulations from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) classifying the internet as an essential utility that “should be available to all Americans” like telephone services, “rather than a luxury that does not need close government supervision.” The ruling maintains FCC authority to curb potential abuses and to prevent internet providers from blocking or slowing down certain websites while favoring others.
In a report that same day, NPR All Things Considered co-host Kelly McEvers and NPR tech blogger Alina Selyukh engaged in a false equivalency, providing a platform for the views of net neutrality critics while leaving out certain facts. McEvers said, “Critics like Texas Senator Ted Cruz have called the rules Obamacare for the internet,” and Selyukh detailed the telecom industry’s argument that the FCC rules will “stifle innovation, and it will stop them from investing in these really important networks”:
KELLY MCEVERS (HOST): A federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., sided with the Obama administration today on its so-called net neutrality rules. They require internet providers to treat all web traffic equally. Critics like Texas Senator Ted Cruz have called the rules “Obamacare for the internet.” NPR's tech blogger, Alina Selyukh, has been following the story and she's with us now.
OK, so what were the arguments in court in this case?
ALINA SELYUKH: Well, as you can imagine, the telecom industry did not like this expansion of authority. Telecom, wireless, cable associations, and then AT&T, CenturyLink and a bunch of smaller broadband providers sued the FCC, arguing that it overstepped its authority. And one of the major arguments they make is that this approach is so outdated that it will stifle innovation and it will stop them from investing in these really important networks.
But neither McEvers nor Selyukh acknowledged that the prevailing opinion is that these arguments are false. Tech experts have called net neutrality the guiding principle that has made the internet successful, Google's director of communications has said the net neutrality rules would promote competition and help the economy, and the National Bureau of Economic Research reported that "there is unlikely to be any negative impact from such regulation on [internet service provider] investment." Furthermore, numerous telecom companies in 2014 told their investors they would continue to improve their networks even under the FCC regulations.