Not all telecoms want to destroy the internet

When the Federal Communications Commission meets today to repeal Obama-era regulations that protect net neutrality, the free and open internet as we know it could be drastically transformed. The rules that help preserve the internet as a place where free speech and innovation thrive without interference or censorship by your internet service provider would be replaced with a system that helps a few opportunistic and short-sighted corporations looking for more ways to monetize the internet.

As the CEO of a mobile phone company and wireless service provider that has been fighting to protect net neutrality for more than a decade, I can tell you that strong net neutrality protections are essential to thriving democracies as well as strong businesses – telecoms included.

In 2015, the FCC established strong, enforceable net neutrality rules to regulate broadband, like landline phones, as a public utility. Just like your phone company can’t discriminate or charge you more because of what you believe or say over the phone, classifying broadband under Title II prevents your ISP from picking and choosing what you do online, charging you more for certain content or prioritizing some content over others.

But Donald Trump’s FCC sees it differently. Chairman Ajit Pai, who has ties to the same telecommunications industry eager to profit from the repeal of Title II, claims net neutrality is stifling innovation. Without net neutrality rules, he argues, companies will invest more and the internet economy will grow.

This argument is dishonest at best. Broadband investment has increased since 2015. And you only need to look as far as the apps on your phone – Instagram, Netflix and Spotify – to see that internet businesses are thriving. Competition is strong because of, not despite, net neutrality. The rules level the playing field for even the smallest startups to create, invest and grow, not just those with the largest lobbying budgets or market share.

Proponents of doing away with net neutrality think our fears are overblown, but the evidence shows otherwise. A cursory Google search reveals myriad examples of internet providers actively stifling competition to pad their bottom lines. AT&T blocked FaceTime from its mobile service and forced Apple to block Skype from the iPhone. Comcast slowed and blocked peer-to-peer technologies, many major mobile carriers blocked Google Wallet, and a number of small ISPs redirected search traffic to collect referral fees.

Equally troubling is the threat to free speech. Innovations that facilitate civic engagement and help activists organize could be under threat. An AT&T or Comcast could block access to certain political websites or other content with which it disagrees, without notifying customers. That should be troubling for liberals and conservatives alike.

You might think that as a telecom, supporting net neutrality would hurt our bottom line. Quite the contrary: We have been successful because we have stayed true to our values and listened to our customers – and our customers overwhelmingly support net neutrality.

And no matter how the FCC votes today, CREDO Mobile will always fight to protect net neutrality because it’s the right thing for our business and for our customers.