WSW: Net Neutraility, Free Speech And Fair Competiton

Jan 4, 2018

Demonstrators rally in support of Net Neutrality outside a Verizon store, Thursday, Dec. 7, 2017, in New York.
Credit Mary Altaffer / The Associated Press

Western Michigan University Thomas M. Cooley Law School Professor Paul Carrier says the amount of government regulation on the Internet may depend on whether it’s viewed as a public utility.

Carrier, whose expertise includes contract law and public and private international law says if Internet access is considered a basic requirement of ordinary living than more government regulation is warranted. Carrier joined WMUK’s Gordon Evans to discuss net neutrality and municipal broadband.

During a Kalamazoo City Commission meeting in December, a citizen speaking during public comment and City Commissioner Erin Knott both raised the issue of municipal broadband as one way of ensuring equal access to the Internet in the wake of a decision to end net neutrality. Carrier says it’s hard to guarantee access to everyone when private companies are setting up the network and collecting fees for the Internet. He says smaller communities may not attract enough companies to ensure competition for Internet service.

Carrier says private companies try to avoid regulation, but he says when Internet access is considered a basic right or considered a free speech issue then it justifies more government involvement. But Carrier says how the issue is viewed also depends on which government agency in in charge. The Federal Communications Commission examines content and speech. But the ruling on Net Neutrality leaves the primary oversight of broadband with the Federal Trade Commission. Carrier says the FTC’s charge is fair competition making it more of a commerce issue.

Carrier says local governments can put some regulatory control on internet service. But he says the large Internet service providers will likely continue to try and limit regulations on providing service. Carrier says their efforts will continue at both the federal and state level.