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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

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Here come Earmarks 2.0

DeLauro at a hearing in May 2020. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

The House Appropriations Committee is preparing to restore a limited version of earmarks, which give lawmakers power to direct spending to their districts to pay for special projects.

Why it matters: A series of scandals involving members in both parties prompted a moratorium on earmarks in 2011. But Democrats argue it's worth the risk to bring them back because earmarks would increase their leverage to pass critical legislation with a narrow majority, especially infrastructure and spending bills.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
2 hours ago - Energy & Environment

UN says Paris carbon-cutting plans fall far short

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Nations' formal emissions-cutting pledges are collectively way too weak to put the world on track to meet the Paris climate deal's temperature-limiting target, a United Nations tally shows.

Driving the news: This morning the UN released an analysis of the most recent nationally determined contributions (NDCs) — that is, countries' medium-term emissions targets submitted under the 2015 pact.

Biden condemns Russian aggression on 7th anniversary of Crimea annexation

Putin giving a speech in Sevastapol, Crimea, in 2020. Photo: Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

President Biden reaffirmed U.S. support for the people of Ukraine and vowed to hold Russia accountable for its aggression in a statement on Friday, the 7th anniversary of Russia's 2014 invasion of Crimea.

Why it matters: The statement reflects the aggressive approach Biden is taking to Russia, which he classified on the campaign trail as an "opponent" and "the biggest threat" to U.S. security and alliances.

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