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Everyone in this country passionately supports an open internet. Free speech — online and off — is at the center of our democratic way of life. For this reason, Americans have always enjoyed an open internet — long before regulators decided they had to "save the internet" by turning it into a utility.

In many respects, the so-called Title II debate reflects everything voters most resent about Washington: Fear-mongering, Armageddon-style arguments with a dubious connection to the facts.

The central fact of this debate is its true subject: This policy battle is not about whether we safeguard an open internet. It's about how we go about doing so.

Title II regulations were written in the rotary phone era. They were put on the books when FDR was president and Frank Capra's black-and-white classic "It Happened One Night" clearly and without any confusion won Best Picture at the 1934 Academy Awards.

The application of these retro rules to our modern internet is the policy equivalent of using a sledgehammer to deal with a mosquito on your arm. Technically, it may get the job done. But everything breaks in the process.

Among the collateral damage: Investment in ever stronger, faster and more capable broadband networks. As FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has noted, last year saw the first dip in private-sector broadband investment outside of a recession. Unlike other essential national infrastructure, U.S. broadband networks are built on private investment—more than $1.1 trillion and counting over the past 15 years. Abruptly shifting gears to a nearly century-old regulatory regime caused these essential investments to slow at a time when U.S. competitiveness demands they speed ahead.

While consumer groups aggressively fundraise to "Save the Internet," they are actively working against some of the most wildly popular consumer innovations. It doesn't take a poll to know that consumers love free and discounted services, and it doesn't take an economist to understand that the more low- and no-cost services are available the closer we get to our nation's other collective goal — seeing all Americans connect to more broadband opportunities. Yet Title II, at least according to its champions, would block broadband providers from offering free and discounted customer services, such as streaming of video or music content without wireless data charges.

I hear all the time about how consumers feel about their internet service. It's not all good. It's not all bad. But not once has someone said: I wish my internet company behaved more like the gas company.

There is a better, cleaner and more straightforward path to the outcome we all want to achieve.

If we don't want to continue what our nation has long enjoyed — an open, innovating, strong, dynamic, pro-consumer internet, then by all means let's keep Title II. But if we do want to advance the opportunities the internet brings to our economy, nation and consumers — and keep the progress and investment coming—then it's high time we embrace a more constructive path forward.

Jonathan Spalter is President and CEO of USTelecom.

Go deeper

Climate reckoning for oil and gas CEOs

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Top executives from ExxonMobil, BP, Chevron and Shell will face a reckoning on Capitol Hill Thursday, as they're grilled on evidence that their companies knew for years that their products were driving climate change but chose to downplay or deny it.

Why it matters: The hearing before the House Oversight Committee will be the first time these executives have been brought together to provide sworn testimony regarding what they knew about the ties between their company's products and climate change, and when they knew it.

Updated 3 hours ago - Science

Nor'easter slams East Coast with flooding rain and powerful winds

A residential area in Middlesex County as floodwater from the nor'easter covers streets in New Jersey on Tuesday. Photo: Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

A monster storm was slamming the Northeast with record rainfall and powerful winds over Tuesday night — causing flash flooding that resulted in people having to be rescued in New Jersey and New York roads to close.

Threat level: All of southern New England westward to New York City and northern New Jersey was under the threat of flash flooding and coastal flooding from the nor'easter through Tuesday night into early Wednesday, per the National Weather Service.

3 hours ago - World

Blinken speaks with Sudan prime minister after his release

Sudan's Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok. Photo: Ebrahim Hamid/AFP via Getty Images

Secretary of State Tony Blinken spoke on the phone on Tuesday evening with Sudan’s Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok after the military released him from custody.

Why it matters: Hamdok’s release was a result of pressure on Sudan’s military leader General Abdul Fattah al-Burhan from the U.S. and other countries but also from the different political parties in Sudan and massive protests in the streets.

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