By Geoffrey Smith
December 14, 2017

Good morning,

The Federal Communications Commission is due to vote today on scrapping the ‘Net Neutrality’ regulations approved in 2015 under President Barack Obama. Barring some unforeseen drama, the Commission will vote 3-2 along party lines, and the efforts of Tom Wheeler to regulate the infrastructure of the Internet more like a utility will pass into history.

There’s been no shortage of commentary on the initiative, much of it generating more heat than light, and most of it dressing up what boils down to naked self-interest. Some noteworthy exceptions to that include this excellent primer (for those who still need one) by Fortune’s Andrew Nusca, and this piece which we published online yesterday by Michael Wade and Heidi Gutschi of the Global Centre for Digital Business Transformation, which argues persuasively against the temptation to view the issue in terms of heroes and villains.

Also to be recommended is this piece for The Wall Street Journal by Jon Leibowitz, a former Democratic commissioner at the Federal Trade Commission, which is a useful reminder that the U.S. still has an antitrust framework capable of handling any competitive distortions that arise from Ajit Pai’s deregulation.

Ultimately, the debate is about how best to finance the upgrade in infrastructure that will be needed to cope with an inconceivable rise in data traffic over the next few years, as digitization and mobile technologies permeate every area of household and commercial life. While there are arguments for treating it such infrastructure as a natural monopoly, and the Internet in general as a public good, there are obvious risks in freezing regulation at a point in 2015 and excluding market forces from a sector that is evolving at a breakneck pace.

Today’s vote won’t and shouldn’t be the last word—a thought which, one can hope, will take some of the shrillness and invective out of the process.

News below. (Alan Murray really will be back tomorrow.)

Geoffrey Smith


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