Former FCC Chairman Michael Powell Tells Net Neutrality Fans To Kill The Rhetoric And Chill Out

There is no need to worry about an open internet going the way of the dinosaur. All of the commotion surrounding the FCC's vote to dismantle net neutrality rules -- which will take place today -- amounts to Frank Drebin's "Nothing to see here" moment in the original The Naked Gun film. Well, that's at least the opinion of Michael Powell (son of four star general Colin Powell), who served as FCC chairman under the Bush administration.

Powell argues that activists that have come out against the FCC -- and chairman Ajit Pai in particular -- are akin to "new-age Nostradamuses [predicting] the internet will stop working, democracy will collapse, plague will ensue and locusts will cover the land." According to Powell, the FCC's efforts will not in fact destroy the internet, but will instead allow it to grow and thrive with innovation.

The internet will continue to operate as expected for years to come, with him adding, "Startups and small business will continue to hatch and flourish, and students will be online, studiously taking courses." Powell also asserts that it is in the best interest of the ISPs to adhere to the basic principles behind net neutrality for one reason: money.

"A network company makes the most money when its pipe is full with activity. The more consumers use, the more profitable the business," Powell added. "With new, compelling services, consumer demand rises for higher speeds."


However, he seems to be missing out on the fact that the ISPs would likely be making money hand-over-fist regardless of what happens at the FCC. With so little competition in the high-speed internet space, local government regulations that provide a high barrier to entry for newcomers, and customers that are often left with just one suitable high-speed ISP in their market, customers have very little options when it comes to "speaking with their dollars". The ISPs are holding all the cards, and opponents to the FCC's vote to kill net neutrality feel that this will further stack the deck in favor of powerful ISPs.

Powell fires back though, stating that what ISPs truly despise is that the Obama administration simply went over the line with burdensome regulations. "What they really object to is the prior administration’s decision to take the extraordinary step of asserting expansive power to regulate nearly every facet of the internet by classifying it as a public utility, which goes far beyond protecting net neutrality," he claims. "Invoking Title II permits the FCC to set prices, approve or disapprove of new innovations, and dictate the terms and conditions of offering service.

"If you want to see the debilitating impact of utility-style regulation on investment and innovation, just look at our crumbling roads, bridges and electric grid and imagine what that kind of chronic underinvestment will do over time to the future of the internet."

In the end, Powell says that FCC vote to end common carrier status and streamline the regulatory framework overseeing both ISPs and tech giants like Amazon and Google will lead to a more fruitful internet for all.

"The FCC plan to restore light-touch regulation is an important move to get the government out of micromanaging the internet, and an opportunity to start a new conversation about internet policy that reflects actual marketplace dynamics," Powell concluded. "Instead of letting the doomsayers win the day, let’s focus on crafting sound policy that continues our progress of building the best broadband infrastructure for America."

Powell's unabashed support for the FCC is no doubt an unpopular opinion in the tech space, but it's a side that deserves to have its voice heard just like those in opposition to the FCC’s actions.