Beyond threatening broadband investment another danger of net neutrality rules is that other governments will see the U.S. regulating the Internet and be tempted to follow suit, added Robert McDowell, a former Republican member of the FCC.
"Across the globe, content application companies are falling under the purview of more and more regulations and court orders," said McDowell, now a partner at the Wiley Rein law firm. "The FCC has the potential to stoke a contagion of international Internet regulation."
Instead of net neutrality regulations, the U.S. government should rely on existing antitrust and consumer protections laws to guard against bad behavior by broadband providers, McDowell and Eisenach argued. The U.S. Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission have significant power to act against anticompetitive behavior and the FTC can take action against companies engaging in unfair business practices, they argued.
But antitrust enforcement can take years to be resolved, Burnham said. Internet startups often don't have the money to raise antitrust complaints, and many would go out of business before an antitrust complaint against broadband traffic throttling could play out, he said.
Antitrust law wouldn't protect the free speech and digital rights of small businesses and Internet users, O'Connor said. Asking small startups or individual Internet users to raise antitrust complaints after evidence of traffic throttling "would basically prevent individual freedom and opportunity of getting into the Internet economy,," she said. "It's not a complete solution to the problem we're facing of a truly open and vibrant digital life."
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