If you like your wireless plan, you should be able to keep it. But new federal regulations may take away your freedom to choose the best broadband plan for you. It’s all part of the federal government’s 332-page plan to regulate the Internet like a public utility — a plan President Barack Obama asked the Federal Communications Commission to implement in November and that is coming up for a vote Feb. 26.
While the plan contains no shortage of regulations, the most problematic may be the new “Internet conduct” rule. It’s a vague rule that gives the FCC almost unfettered discretion to micromanage virtually every aspect of the Internet, including the choices that consumers have for accessing it. If a company doesn’t want to offer an expensive, unlimited data plan, it could find itself in the FCC’s cross hairs.
But restricting service plan options is inherently anti-competitive and anti-consumer. The inevitable results will be higher prices and less service for consumers along with an especially adverse impact on small providers and upstart competitors trying to differentiate themselves in a crowded market.
Consider that activists promoting this rule had previously targeted neither AT&T nor Verizon with their first net-neutrality complaint but MetroPCS — an upstart competitor with a single-digit market share and not an ounce of market power. Its crime? Unlimited YouTube. MetroPCS offered a $40-per-month plan with unlimited talk, text, Web browsing and YouTube streaming. The company’s strategy was to entice customers to switch from the four national carriers or to upgrade to its newly built 4G Long Term Evolution network.