Wednesday, October 21
Originally published by Bloomberg BNA. Republished here with their permission.
Net Neutrality: Washington’s Chance at a Bi-Partisan Win-Win Solution
By Rick Boucher
Rick Boucher served in the US House for 28 years and chaired the House Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Communications and the Internet. He is honorary chairman of the Internet Innovation Alliance (IIA) and head of the government strategies practice at the law firm Sidley Austin.
Net neutrality. It’s the longest standing communications policy debate of the 21st Century, and a decade after it started, it’s still raging and far from resolved.
I share these observations as a Democrat and long-standing supporter of strong network neutrality protections and as a deeply involved participant in the writing of the Communications Act of 1996.
I’m motivated by a desire to put this controversy to rest on terms that would allow both Democrats and Republicans to declare victory and realize their main policy objectives and, coincidentally, strongly benefit the public interest.
Title II Vulnerability
First, why do I say that the controversy is far from resolved? After all, in the name of network neutrality protection, the FCC just reclassified broadband as a Title II common carrier service. Doesn’t reclassification of broadband resolve the controversy and assure network neutrality protection?
Actually, no. It has only escalated the controversy and jeopardized the future for net neutrality guarantees. In fact, reclassification of broadband is perhaps the most tenuous federal agency decision in recent memory given that it suffers from severe potential legal infirmities and enormous political risk.
I’ll be specific.
First, the FCC’s reclassification order is legally vulnerable. For starters, it flies in the face of the Communications Act of ‘96. In that law, we specifically created the category of “information services” to ensure that Internet service providers who use telecommunications to make information available to the public will not be subject to monopoly-style regulation designed for the era of wired telephones. Until this year’s reclassification decision, the FCC had consistently treated Internet access as an information service. Suddenly, the FCC has now reversed ground, ignored years of precedent and reclassified broadband as a telecommunications service so that it can protect network neutrality through telephone regulations descended from the 1930s.
The courts do not look kindly on abrupt agency reversals where long-held interpretations are suddenly thrown out the window without a clear indication of changed circumstances warranting the regulatory about-face. In this case, the underlying facts have not changed, and consistent with judicial precedent, the courts will hold the FCC’s feet to the fire on its decision to ignore and reverse a long-standing interpretation that defines broadband as an “information service.”
The courts will also examine the FCC’s deficient notice prior to the rule change, in which the agency failed to put a possible reclassification at the center of its rulemaking proceeding. That shortcoming may well have deprived interested parties of the opportunity to provide informed comments and presents a very real legal risk that the FCC’s decision will be overturned.
Avoidance of Political Risk
Yet, the ultimate risk to the FCC’s net neutrality decision may be political. Current polling indicates roughly a 50 percent chance that a Republican will win the presidency next year. If that happens, the FCC would revert to a three-to-two Republican majority, and it’s virtually certain that a new Republican FCC would return to the classification of broadband as an information service. Network neutrality protections would be lost, and philosophically the Republicans would have little interest in finding an alternate means to continue them.
The FCC’s reclassification order rests on a bed of sand, but one thing it has done is open the door to a legislative opportunity for Democrats to achieve their long-held goal of statutory permanence for network neutrality protections.
During the telecom debates of the past decade, Republicans have consistently opposed net neutrality legislation. Now, in the interest of obtaining lighter regulatory treatment for broadband as an information service, Republicans have signaled their willingness to enshrine meaningful network neutrality protections in a statute in return for not applying common carrier regulation to the Internet.
By accepting the Republican offer, Congressional Democrats would achieve their long-held goal of statutory permanence for network neutrality in exchange for a return of broadband to the information services status it has enjoyed since its inception for all but a few months of this year. Net neutrality guarantees would be virtually immune from legal challenge and far removed from political risk.
Why wouldn’t Democrats want to take advantage of this unique opportunity? It’s a true compromise: net neutrality regulations in statute, enforceable by the FCC, in exchange for a return to information services regulatory treatment of broadband, also in statute, as Republicans want. There’s no reason not to take the deal for either party and also thereby remind the FCC that no matter which party controls it, Congress is the ultimate arbiter of telecom policy.
The issues are crystallized. For the moment, both Democrats and Republicans enjoy roughly equal leverage, and each can give to the other the thing it wants the most. In that circumstance, even in a Congress not prone to legislating, the passage of a law is clearly possible.
As a Democrat and network neutrality proponent, this is a deal I hope the Democrats will accept.
Friday, July 31
With the FCC swinging a large regulatory hammer these days, Fred Campbell of Forbes takes a close look at the Commission’s conditions for the recent merger of AT&T and DIRECTV. What he finds is another example of the FCC going rogue with regulation. An excerpt:
The merger’s pricing condition is retail rate regulation, but it’s far worse than what “was done in the pre-broadband days.” In old-fashioned rate-making cases, the FCC is required to justify the rate it imposes. The merger order “doesn’t even make a cursory attempt to explain how it arrived at this $10 price point” or why price regulation should apply to AT&T only and not its competitors.
What rules violation or competitive harm did the referee cite for throwing the retail rate regulation flag at AT&T only? None. The FCC penalized AT&T because it can. Unfortunately, no referee exists to throw a flag when the FCC discriminates against companies in a merger proceeding.
Campbell’s conclusion is that Congress needs to apply more oversight on FCC decisions:
The integrity of any game depends on the credibility of its officiating. That’s why the NFL watches its referees to make sure they are abiding by the rules too. When fans can’t trust officials to make a fair call, the league needs to reign in its referees. With the FCC, that task belongs to Congress.
Check out Fred Campbell’s full piece over at Forbes.
Thursday, July 23
Our Honorary Chairman Rick Boucher talked with Jeff Hawn of RCR Wireless News for an article on Title II and net neutrality. In the article, Boucher argues that Congress needs to recognize the principles of net neutrality, but that Title II is simply an outdated fit when it comes to regulating broadband. An excerpt:
Boucher’s viewpoint is supported by a recent Georgetown study co-authored by Kevin Hassett of the American Enterprise Institute and Robert Shapiro of the Georgetown Center for Business Policy.
In the study, they write that Title II regulation is “likely to increase costs and regulatory hurdles for providers. Introducing substantial, new regulation of the businesses that provide much of the Internet’s infrastructure and content could not only raise the cost and price of most Internet communications, it also could reduce the efficiency of most network arrangements that depend on Internet platforms, devalue the investments made in those platforms or based on them, and force many organizations to reorient their enterprises in ways that would minimize the costs of the regulation rather than maximizing efficient operations.”
“The uncertainty of Title II will likely cool the willingness of ISPs to make investments in their infrastructure, the net effect of which is that we won’t get the broadband build-out we otherwise would,” Boucher added. “Additionally, companies will be more cautious with new innovations. Essentially Title II hits the slow-down button and it’s the American consumer who will suffer.”
Friday, May 29
Originally published by eWeek. Reposted here with permission.
IIA Proposes Net Neutrality Legislation to Solve FCC Title II Dilemma
by Wayne Rash
At first, Rick Boucher’s idea seemed too good to be true. The former Democratic Congressman from Virginia was proposing an idea so radical that I had to check my notes to make sure I hadn’t been daydreaming.
The concept was a bipartisan bill that would give both Democrats and Republicans something each party wants and little or nothing they don’t.
Boucher, honorary chairman of the Internet Innovation Alliance, offered draft legislation that would give the Democrats guaranteed, long term, net neutrality and Republicans something they really want, which is to return Internet access to being an information service rather than a telecommunications service, as it is under Title II. Perhaps more important, the bill that Boucher proposes doesn’t attempt to do anything else.
Boucher’s reasoning is based on a recent change of heart in Republican circles regarding net neutrality. Lately, it seems the party is OK with the concept as long as they eliminate the real problem they see with Title II, which is the reclassification. “What is so different today is that the Republicans have offered to the Democrats that range of network neutrality protection,” Boucher said.
“The Republicans have said that they’re willing to put strong protections for net neutrality in place and continue to have protection for information services,” Boucher explained. He said that for their part, the Democrats have told him that they’re willing to work with the Republicans as long as any legislation doesn’t become loaded down with provisions they can’t support.
“That way there’s only two moving parts,” Boucher said. The problem so far is that nobody on the Democratic side of the aisle has moved forward with discussions on how to draft legislation that would get bipartisan support. Now, with the move by the FCC to reclassify Internet access under Title II, Boucher thinks there may be an opening.
In a May 21 press conference held the day before our interview, Boucher and legal scholar Kathleen Sullivan, who is the former Dean of the Stanford Law School, pointed out how recent events could well result in all sides losing what they want. Sullivan pointed out that current legal challenges to the Title II reclassification could, and in fact are likely to, put the entire move by the FCC on hold.
But Boucher pointed out the looming danger that could come about in two years, a Republican win in the White House and a new, Republican-chaired FCC. He said that such an event could effectively undo everything the Democrats want, but also might undo everything the Republicans want, too.
Either way, it could tie up Internet regulation for years and, in the process, hurt innovation through years of uncertainty.
But there’s another potential stumbling block in this otherwise simple idea: that is, will the President sign such legislation? Boucher thinks he will, if only because the White House has been pushing the Title II reclassification is as a way to get net neutrality in place.
Unfortunately, as many people (including me) have mentioned, the FCC’s action doesn’t guarantee anything. A future FCC or a future White House can undo it in a heartbeat. This is why Boucher thinks bipartisan legislation is really the only good way to assure that net neutrality stands the test of time. Once it’s written into law, even the FCC can’t change it.
Of course the FCC doesn’t want to try, just as it has tried to rewrite the Communications Act to say what it wants. Sullivan pointed this out in her statement at the press conference as did Boucher, who is one of the authors of the current Communications Act.
“The Communications Act distinguishes between telecommunication services and information services,” Sullivan said in her presentation. “The Supreme Court has properly defined cable internet use as an information service. The FCC has reversed course and acted outside of the statute. Congress has not authorized this.”
By crafting and passing bipartisan legislation, both sides of the aisle in Congress can avoid outcomes they don’t want, Boucher said. “Democrats can protect net neutrality and Republicans can achieve a top policy priority which is to treat broadband as an information service.”
Boucher said he hopes that the House and Senate Commerce Committees can get the ball rolling. He pointed out that these committees tend to stay away from partisan politics and perhaps because of that continue to function in what is otherwise a politically gridlocked Congress.
Unfortunately, just because a bill makes a lot of sense, fixes a problem that many people believe badly needs fixing and is supported by both parties doesn’t mean it’ll ever see the light of day as a piece of proposed legislation.
The sad fact remains that despite general agreement on the need for a return to the way that the Internet was regulated before the Title II reclassification (meaning lightly if at all) and the agreement by nearly everyone from the Supreme Court on down that the Internet is an information service, getting legislation through Congress is problematic under even the best circumstances.
One can hope that Rick Boucher and the IIA can get this bill past dead center, but hope is about all that’s left.
Thursday, May 21
Earlier today, our Honorary Chairman Rick Boucher and constitutional law expert Kathleen M. Sullivan participated in a teleconference to discuss the political and legal infirmities of the FCC’s recent net neutrality decision. The teleconference coincided with the release of IIA’s informational doc, “Permanently Securing Net Neutrality,” along with our timeline of light-touch regulation that has given consumers a vibrant Internet.
During the teleconference, Sullivan and Boucher discussed the political and legal fragilities of the FCC’s recent decision to impose public utility-style net neutrality rules on the broadband ecosystem, as well as the broader implications of Title II reclassification. Specifically:
How the FCC’s decision to reclassify broadband Internet access service as a “telecommunications service” subject to Title II common carrier regulation is contrary to nearly 50 years of FCC and Supreme Court precedent;
How the FCC failed to legally and factually justify its decision to abruptly reverse course; and
How the FCC now faces the real threat that its monopoly-era approach will be overturned either by a court or through the election of a Republican President that would alter the Commission’s leadership in 2017.
Our thanks to Kathleen M. Sullivan for participating in the teleconference. A recording of the discussion is embeded below:
Friday, May 15
At CNBC, our Co-Chairman Jamal Simmons has an op-ed explaining how the Federal Communications Commission’s new open Internet rules could be swept away with the next presidential election, and how Congress should make permanent in law prohibitions against slowing, throttling and creating Internet fast lanes without imposing public utility-style regulation on broadband. An excerpt:
All those who care about preserving an open Internet that maintains the flexibility to innovate and develop new products and services without entrepreneurs having to seek government permission should support a new law. A new law won’t be perfect and will require both sides to make compromises, but it is a far better path to certainty and avoids legal and political wrangling that could tie advancement up for years, slowing down innovation and economic growth in the meantime.
Voters should ask Congress to pass an open Internet law before all attention turns to the presidential campaign. Otherwise, the next president will hold in her — or his — hands the future of the open Internet. Protecting such an important resource from the whims of shifting presidential political winds is among the most important things voters can do to keep the economy growing.
You can check out Simmons’ full op-ed over at CNBC.
Monday, April 13
In response to the publication of the Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC) Title II Net Neutrality decision in the Federal Register, we encourage Congress to craft legislation in order to avoid legal challenges and market uncertainty. The publication of the decision starts the clock on potential legal challenges, and given that the FCC’s rules will soon take effect, Congress should use this window of opportunity for legislation that sets forth permanent rules to advance Internet openness, continued investment, and innovation in the nation’s vibrant 21st Century digital broadband economy.
Wednesday, April 08
This morning, our Honorary Chairman Rick Boucher had an op-ed published in The Hill encouraging Democrats to work across the aisle to legislatively ensure net neutrality is enshrined into law. An excerpt:
[W]hy, one may ask, would Democrats want to accept such an offer, since the FCC has now reclassified broadband as a telecommunications service, vesting the FCC with the power to apply a broad swath of common carrier rules to the Internet? Under that authority, the FCC can assure network neutrality and have residual power to regulate broadband providers in other ways that today are unforeseen. Why would Democrats want to give that up for a statute that only protects net neutrality?
The answer is both simple and compelling. The FCC’s reclassification decision rests on a bed of sand. It is highly impermanent and could be washed away with the next presidential election. Today’s seemingly firm network neutrality assurances are at serious risk of being lost in the future.
You can read Boucher’s full op-ed over at The Hill.
Thursday, April 02
Our Honorary Chairman Rick Boucher has an op-ed in Thomas Jefferson Institute’s Jefferson Policy Journal arguing for bipartisanship, rather than heavy-handed regulation, to keep the Internet growing. An excerpt:
Not surprisingly, the policies that have fostered this growth and today’s open Internet have largely been bipartisan. Everyone favors good, clean, well-paying technology jobs and the companies that generate those jobs. This bipartisan consensus extended to the Federal Government as well. Back in the 1990s, during the Clinton Administration, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) raced to do all it could to get the Internet to as many Americans as possible and to keep it free from overly burdensome public utility regulation that then applied to telephone companies. Two decades later we see the results of bipartisan efforts in the form of the free, open, privately-networked Internet that we enjoy today.
And equally unsurprisingly, anything that threatens this consensus and the Internet on which our economy increasingly depends should be of first importance to Virginia.
Unfortunately, the FCC’s new “net neutrality” rules attempt to promote an open Internet by imposing regulations designed for public utilities, such as gas and water companies. Imposing these so called “Title II” regulations on the Internet introduces unnecessary uncertainty into the broadband marketplace, and it could threaten the future investment that is essential to promoting an innovative, growing, and vibrant Internet-centric economy.
By treating the competitive multi-media Internet as a 20th Century “common carrier”, the FCC’s decision opens the door to Internet regulations modeled on the rules that were developed for the Ma Bell telephone monopoly and for other monopolies that offered a single service and were regulated in virtually all aspects of their businesses. Under the light touch regulation that has applied to the Internet since the Clinton era, investment across the information ecosystem has produced an Internet economy that is the envy of the world. A regulatory environment welcoming to investment was at the foundation of that success, and it is now threatened.
Monday, March 30
1. The courts
3. A new president
4. The budget
These are the five perils Julian Hattem of The Hill recently highlighted as potential pitfalls for the FCC’s new net neutrality rules. Hattern’s full piece is required reading for anyone concerned about the future of the Internet, since it casts a light on sheer amount of uncertainty the rules are already causing.
An excerpt about the threat of deadlock from the piece, featuring our own Honorary Chairman Rick Boucher:
For now, given the FCC’s current makeup of three Democrats and two Republicans, any company asking for exemptions to the net neutrality rules is likely to be rejected.
But if that should happen to change — for instance, if a Democratic president is unable to move his or her nominees through a GOP-controlled Senate after the current commissioners’ term expire — the agency could be stuck in a 2-2 deadlock, which would automatically grant an exemption, known as forbearance.
“It’s not too far out there,” former Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.), who helped write the 1996 law undergirding the FCC’s authority, recently told The Hill.
“In that circumstance, if a forbearance petition is filed and they don’t act on it, it could be deemed granted.”
Wednesday, March 25
In the wake of the FCC’s controversial decision to regulate broadband services under Title II, our Honorary Chairman Rick Boucher spoke with Jim Puzzanghera at the Los Angeles Times about the possibility of Congress formally enshrining net neutrality into law. An excerpt:
Rick Boucher knows as well as anybody that net neutrality is the type of complex technology topic that Congress finds difficult to handle even when Democrats and Republicans are getting along.
But the former 14-term House member, a longtime player on Internet policy who now heads a telecommunications industry trade group, is optimistic that the controversial Internet issue could be a surprising source of compromise in a time of partisan gridlock.
“Each side can give the other the thing it wants the most,” Boucher, a well-respected Democrat who is honorary chairman of the Internet Innovation Alliance. “This is an optimal moment to legislate.”
Check out Puzzanghera’s full piece over at the Los Angeles Times.
Monday, March 23
At the Washington Post, Larry Downes has penned a piece highlighting a recent Georgetown Center for Business and Public Policy event commemorating the fifth anniversary of the National Broadband Plan. Headlined “Did the National Broadband Plan spur innovation?” the full piece is definitely worth checking out. An excerpt:
For the next five years, we need a significant policy reset to meet both the challenges and opportunities of the broadband revolution. Or rather, as I’ve argued before, a return to the bipartisan “light touch” policy embraced in the early years of the Internet revolution, in which regulators largely left broadband governance to the multi-stakeholder engineering-driven process that created the technology in the first place.
As the broadband revolution spreads its disruption farther from traditional computing, communications and consumer electronics industries, innovators need a kind of Hippocratic Oath from policymakers of all political persuasions. When considering regulatory intervention in quickly-evolving markets and technologies, our overriding public policy should be “first, do no harm.”
But given the alarming rise in heavy-handed interventions from state and local regulators, as well as a growing list of federal agencies including the FAA, FDA, FTC, SEC and the FCC itself, the prospects for a return to more rational policies — the kind that encouraged the broadband revolution to achieve the remarkable progress we have already witnessed — seem dim, at least for now.
The seeds for the National Broadband Plan were sown in the early days of the Obama administration. Perhaps the next president will call for a second plan that will build on the successes of the first. And learn from its misfires.
Thursday, March 12
Today the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released its net neutrality order. In response, IIA asks on Congress to step in with a non-partisan and long-lasting legislative solution that preserves and maintains the “open Internet” without the burdens of utility-style regulation. Our full statement:
Market uncertainty accelerates today with the release of the FCC’s decision to impose public utility regulation on the Internet. Long drawn out legal challenges to the agency’s embrace of Title II regulation without clear statutory authority now await the Internet ecosystem. Yet, Congress can still rescue the nation from this fate by crafting a non-partisan and long-lasting legislative solution that would preserve and maintain an ‘open Internet’ without the burdens of utility-style regulation. Now is the time for a bi-partisan Congressional effort aimed at creating statutory permanence that helps advance innovation, investment, and broadband deployment for the benefit of all Americans.
Wednesday, February 25
Earlier today, our Honorary Chairman Rick Boucher testified before the Subcommittee on Communications and Technology on the effects the FCC’s Net Neutrality proposal will have on the future of the Internet. In his testimony, Boucher — who served on the House Energy and Commerce and Judiciary Committees, along with the subcommittees on Communications, Technology and the Internet during his time in Congress — urged Congress to take up the issue via legislation. An excerpt:
If a Republican wins the 2016 presidential election, the new Administration would be unlikely to support a writ of certiorari to the U.S. Supreme Court if the rules are struck down by a U.S. Court of Appeals. It would be unlikely that in such an event the FCC in a Republican administration would initiate a new network neutrality proceeding. In fact it is probable that an FCC with a Republican majority would, as an early order of business, undertake a reversal of the reclassification order that will be approved tomorrow.
For these reasons, the network neutrality assurances of tomorrow’s reclassification order rest on a tenuous foundation. They are at risk of being lost. Legislation is, therefore, a superior solution. It would be virtually impenetrable from a judicial challenge, and would resolve this debate with a statutory permanence and degree of certainty not available through the regulatory process.
Read Rick Boucher’s full testimony.
Wednesday, February 04
Says Congress should resolve the Open Internet debate with targeted legislation aimed at reinstating the 2010 Open Internet Rules and not imposing public utility regulation on broadband
WASHINGTON, D.C. – February 4, 2015 – In response to press reports highlighting the Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC) policy direction on new Open Internet rules, IIA issued the following statements from Rick Boucher, a former Democratic congressman who chaired the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and the Internet and serves as honorary chairman of the Internet Innovation Alliance (IIA), and former Assistant Secretary of Commerce under Clinton – now IIA Founding Co-Chairman – Larry Irving:
From Congressman Boucher:
“I urge Chairman Wheeler to reconsider his plan to treat broadband services under common carrier rules. Subjecting broadband to public utility regulation under Title II is unnecessary for assuring continued Internet openness and would carry deeply harmful consequences. Internet infrastructure investment would be stifled at a time when we have a national goal of extending high-speed Internet service to 98 percent of Americans.
“A better way to preserve the open Internet, protect consumers and promote innovation is to encourage the private investment necessary to support the deployment of high-speed, next-generation broadband nationwide. I’m confident in Congress’ ability to secure a win for our nation with a bi-partisan legislative solution that empowers the FCC to re-promulgate the 2010 Open Internet Rule but precludes the imposition of onerous Title II regulations. This outcome would protect the Open Internet by remedying the D.C. Circuit’s objection that the Commission lacks the statutory authority to act and maintain the existing light-touch regulatory environment that is welcoming to high-speed broadband investment.”
From Larry Irving:
“Imposing Title II regulation on broadband Internet primarily will benefit lawyers. Endless litigation will create additional uncertainty in the market and impact Internet innovation and investment as companies and investors try to figure out what provisions do or do not apply in a new Title II world.
“Democrats primarily have driven the net neutrality debate, but today Republicans in Congress stand ready to work on a bipartisan basis on legislation aimed to ‘keep the Internet open.’ If an open Internet is the goal, why is the only acceptable mechanism for achieving that goal a centuries-old regulatory framework? Preserving the open Internet through bi-partisan legislation, achieving and declaring victory on an important issue, steering clear of interminable and disruptive litigation, and reducing consumer costs by veering away from antiquated Title II regulation would seem to be the better alternative.
“For more than two decades, from the earliest days of the Internet, I along with most Democrats involved in development of our nation’s Internet policy, have advocated a light regulatory touch for the Internet. I still believe that to be preferable to utility-style regulation for the fast-moving and constantly evolving Internet. But, as important, to craft the right solution for America, we need to end the partisan politics around the Open Internet issue and work towards and embrace bi-partisan solutions.”
Wednesday, January 21
Yesterday, the Washington Post published a must-read piece from Larry Downes breaking down why everyone who supports an open Internet should support the net neutrality bill making its way through Congress. An excerpt:
The proposed law is short and sweet. It grants the FCC authority to enforce tough new limits on how ISPs manage network traffic, directly addressing the kinds of practices both the agency and the White House have argued could, if implemented by ISPs in the future, threaten the continued success of the U.S. Internet.
At the same time, it would cleanly resolve the long-running conflict between the agency and the federal courts, who have rejected two earlier net neutrality efforts from the FCC on the ground that Congress never delegated oversight of broadband ISPs to the agency.
You can — and should — head on over to the Washington Post to read Downes’ full piece, but if you’re in a hurry we’ve put together an infographic highlighting the eight reasons he gives for supporting the bill.
Tuesday, January 13
Our Honorary Chairman Rick Boucher has taken to the pages of Roll Call to argue that Congress should act now to ensure net neutrality. An excerpt:
The coming month, before the FCC acts presents a timely opportunity for Congress to step in and resolve the debate on terms that would seemingly be agreeable to Democrats and Republicans, broadband providers and consumers seeking continued access to robust high-speed Internet services. The FCC promulgated its open Internet rule in 2010 against a backdrop of consensus that had been reached through lengthy discussions among the stakeholders. While not all of the parties were in agreement, a critical mass of consumer groups, broadband providers and policymakers created the consensus that resulted in the FCC’s open Internet framework. It’s notable that among broadband providers, AT&T publicly expressed support for the rule, and it was ultimately approved with the FCC’s Democratic members voting affirmatively. Even more noteworthy is that in the four years since the open Internet rule was adopted, broadband providers have integrated its requirements into daily operations, and high-speed Internet access service has expanded absent consumer complaints of violations.
Check out Boucher’s full op-ed over at Roll Call.
Monday, January 05
Now that 2015 is officially underway — and a new, Republican-controlled Congress is arriving in Washington — the FCC has announced its plan for net neutrality will be revealed in February. Via Brian Fung of the Washington Post:
The timing indicates Wheeler does not see the need for more public input on the benefits and drawbacks of using Title II, as earlier reports suggested. It also implies the FCC will not be able to avoid a showdown with Congress over net neutrality. Republican lawmakers are expected to introduce legislation this month to preempt any FCC rule on the subject.
Since Republicans have made clear they are opposed to regulating broadband providers under Title II, it’s looking increasingly doubtful that the issue will be put to rest anytime soon.
Wednesday, December 10
In a letter to Members of Congress and the FCC, 60 companies — including IBM, Cisco, Intel, and others — have warned that reclassifying broadband under Title II will reduce investment and threaten the very health of the thriving Internet ecosystem. An excerpt:
Reversing course now by shifting to Title II means that instead of billions of broadband investment driving other sectors of the economy forward, any reduction in this spending will stifle growth across the entire economy.
This is not idle speculation or fear mongering. And as some have already warned, Title II is going to lead to a slowdown, if not a hold, in broadband build out, because if you don’t know that you can recover on your investment, you won’t make it. One study estimates that capital investment by certain broadband providers could be between $28.1 and $45.4 billion lower than expected over the next five years if wireline broadband reclassification occurs. If even half of the ISPs decide to pull back investment to this degree, the impact on the tech equipment sector will be immediate and severe, and the impact would be even greater if wireless broadband is reclassified.
The investment shortfall would then flow downstream, landing first and squarely on technology companies like ours, and then working its way through the economy overall. Just a few years removed from the worst recession in memory, that’s a risk no policymaker should accept, let alone promote.
You can read the letter, submitted by the Telecommunications Industry Association, here.
Thursday, June 26
At The Hill, Julian Hattem reports there is renewed interest in updating America’s Telecommunications Act:
The top Republican on the Senate Commerce Committee is pushing for Congress to overhaul the law governing the Internet, television and phone service.
Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), the ranking member of the powerful panel, said on Wednesday that the Senate would likely begin work to update the law next year, and seemed to shine on the notion that Republicans would have taken control of the upper chamber.
“The world moves so fast that it’s hard for even the most technologically savvy and digitally-connected person to keep up with everything, so it should be no surprise that our laws have fallen woefully behind,” he said at an event on Capitol Hill sponsored by the Free State Foundation, a free market-oriented think tank.
“We need 21st Century laws for a 21st Century world.”
One benefit of updating the 1996 Act would be a possible end to the never-ending — and exhausting — net neutrality debate once and for all. Here’s hoping Sen. Thune can rally the troops to make it happen.