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Internet Got Faster Without Net Neutrality

Net Neutrality proponents argue that internet service providers (ISPs) will slow your internet speed and charge you extra fees if the FCC abandons its Title II regulatory expansion. Wrong. This goes against every ounce of recorded history, which shows that speeds increase and prices decline, and have done so without Title II.

Proponents like Save the Internet ignore available data that describe the evolution of internet performance and pricing before the FCC’s 2015 Open Internet Order. As it turns out, the internet did just fine without Title II regulations. The Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) 2015 report on American broadband shows universally improving speeds between the years of 2011-2014. Download speed for cable broadband increased annually by 61.2%, 28.2% for DSL, and 19.2% for fiber. Upload speeds for the same respective categories rose 77.4%, 27.7%, and 12.5%. Most ISP services downloaded web page content one second after clicking on a link, an improvement over previous years.

Internet speed is rising so quickly that companies outperformed their own internet advertising on average. The ratio between actual download speeds and advertised download speed for internet service was 105.6% in 2014, higher than the 101.6% measurement from 2011. The same ratio for upload speeds rose from 113.2% to 109.1%. The table below displays these ratios for America’s largest ISPs, which often provide better-than-advertised service. Basically, the internet slowdown promised by net neutrality activists is false.

Access to high speed internet is nearly universal. Only 10% of Americans lack access to the new high-speed benchmark of 25mbps/3mbps, while only 5% lack access to the old high-speed standard of 4mbps/1mbps. Both of these figures are improvements over 2011 measurements. Speeds will continue to improve considering that the United States is a global leader in deploying high speed fiber. The chart below displays that the US ranks sixth overall among OECD countries in fiber availability, without the massive subsidies that first place Japan and second place South Korea provide.

And there are no signs of slowing down. In 2011, the United States installed 19 million miles of fiber, more than the total fiber existing in the European Union. Since then, fiber expansion continues, largely in part to small-scale ISPs, as the chart below shows. More homes get fiber every year.

Additionally, the cost of broadband has plummeted. ISP services in the late 1990s and early 2000s would fail to accommodate today’s websites that feature bandwidth-intensive videos and streaming services. The cost of using 1000 megabits per second (mbps) today is $23, much lower than a burdensome $1,245 in 1999. The unsurmountable prices and speeds of yesteryear would make Netflix, Youtube, and any of the 1.2 billion-plus websites in existence impossible to use.

Persistent fears of content-based website censorship have no basis either.

The internet flourished before the Open Internet Order. Speeds accelerate, prices plunge, and freedom reigns. There is zero need for expansive Title II regulations. Advocates for net neutrality are simply in search of another way to expand government power.