Wednesday, October 22
At an event yesterday in College Station, Texas, FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai called for the Commission to be more transparent when it comes to the thorny issue of net neutrality. Via The Hill‘s Julian Hattem:
“I was disappointed when the FCC decided to hold each one of its recent net neutrality roundtable discussions at our Washington headquarters,” he said at the start of the forum hosted by the George Bush School of Government and Public Service. “And that’s why I wish that my colleagues were here with me today.”
“On this issue and other critical issues, the FCC shouldn’t be hiding in our nation’s capital,” he added.
Kudos to Commissioner Pai for bringing this discussion out of the Beltway himself. Regardless of which side of the net neutrality debate you fall on, we can all agree that more transparency and openness from the FCC would benefit everyone.
Wednesday, October 08
In an op-ed for Roll Call, Bret Swanson — President of Entropy Economics and one of our Broadband Ambassadors — argues that even the so-called Title II ‘Lite’ could have disastrous results. An excerpt:
In a new legal analysis, in fact, the Phoenix Center says “Title II Lite” is an impossibility. Any imposition of Title II on broadband, Phoenix argues, will bring tariffing and thus price controls to the entire net. It will convert all edge providers, by definition, into customers of the broadband service providers. And the FCC will not, contra the “lite” advocates’ assertions, be able to forbear from the numerous and weighty rules of Title II.
Law allows for forbearance — itself a long and convoluted process — if there is competition. The FCC, however, has defined the BSPs as “terminating monopolies” — Comcast, in other words, has a monopoly on Comcast customers. Competition is thus impossible and therefore, argues Phoenix, is forbearance. Because of the complex, interconnected nature of the net, where software and content firms are also network firms, and vice versa, where consumers are also content providers, the inability to forbear would mean Title II spreading across every node and layer of the net and likely affecting the entire ecosystem.
Thursday, October 02
There are several commonly disseminated myths aimed at perpetuating confusion and misinformation during the pendency of the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Open Internet proceeding. Facts, however, cut through the clutter and allow for a discussion rooted in reality rather than rhetoric.
Title II reclassification of broadband is not necessary to preserve an Open Internet.
Here’s why the FCC can and should move forward with Open Internet rules designed under its Section 706 authority rather than reclassifying broadband services under Title II of the Communications Act:
TITLE II AND SECTION 706: Myths vs. Facts
Myth: Title II regulations helped bring about the Internet boom of the early 2000s.
Fact: Although an initial investment spike occurred immediately after the passage of the 1996 Act, that investment was short-lived. That initial spate of investment was primarily directed at technologies and business models that were quickly outstripped by more modern technologies. In fact, the majority of the investment in our country’s broadband infrastructure occurred after the FCC’s 2003-05 decisions to decrease regulations on the broadband industry. This surge in investment laid the groundwork for high-speed Internet to become a leading driver of our nation’s economic growth and to spur the incredible innovation consumers enjoy today.
Myth: Title II-like regulations helped Europe leapfrog the U.S. on broadband deployment.
Fact: Europe gave up its leadership position when it began its path toward heavy-handed regulation that deterred broadband investment and deployment.
According to an independent study, today nearly 82% of U.S. consumers enjoy access to next-generation, high-speed broadband networks (over 25Mbps) while only 54% of Europeans have comparable access. In rural areas, the U.S. again leads in access, 48% to 12%. Next-generation wireless broadband (LTE) is available to 86% of Americans but only 27% of Europeans.
European broadband policies are built on extensive, public utility-style regulation that has depressed broadband investment. In contrast, the U.S. light-touch regulation model has enabled U.S. broadband network operators to invest more than double per household than Europe does: $562 versus $244 in Europe.
Myth: Applying Title II regulations to broadband networks and providers will prevent companies from creating Internet “fast lanes”.
Fact: The FCC has stated that no ISP has ever engaged in paid prioritization schemes. No evidence exists that ISPs have ever or are likely to create fast lanes and slow lanes.
Reclassifying broadband under Title II would not prevent such. In fact, under Title II, public utilities have always been allowed to offer prioritized services. Telephone companies routinely offer installation and repair priority along with service level guarantees to those willing to pay extra money.
According to FCC Chairman Wheeler, the 2010 net neutrality rules were never intended to cover these privately-negotiated business deals, only the last mile of the Internet.
Myth: Wireless networks and wireline networks are virtually interchangeable these days and should have the same net neutrality rules.
Fact: In the 2010 rules, to which all carriers committed, the FCC stated that special characteristics of mobile broadband infrastructure make it essential to give mobile providers additional flexibility in how they manage the traffic on their networks. Due to resource constraints, such as the limited amount of spectrum available for consumer use, mobile networks operate differently than wireline networks. A stringent regulatory environment established under Title II, and intended primarily for a monopoly-era copper wireline world, would be onerous.
The FCC still imposed two conditions on wireless networks in 2010. First, wireless networks cannot block access to legal websites, with exclusions for reasonable network management. Second, wireless network providers were required to disclose their network management practices, performance and terms and conditions of their broadband services.
The current approach acknowledges how wireless networks are different from fixed networks but still protects consumers and enables investment and innovation in the intensely competitive wireless marketplace.
Myth: ISPs harm the open Internet through discriminatory practices. The only way to keep the Internet open is to reclassify Internet services as telecommunications services.
Fact: The Internet, without Title II regulations, is and has been open since its first public use. It continues to thrive in the current regulatory environment. In contrast, Title II regulation would stifle investment and hinder innovation. Innovative new services and business models would have to be vetted and approved by the FCC, slowing the Internet’s vitality and growth.
Ensuring a fair and open Internet through authority granted by Section 706 is a better path. Section 706 permits the FCC to prevent paid prioritization while encouraging innovation and investment from ISPs and other Internet companies.
Myth: Title II can be easily adapted to today’s modern communications systems.
Fact: The past 20 years have seen stunning technological advancements in the communication industry. Americans can now access a wealth of information in myriad new ways. The transformation of the communications industry has caused companies to no longer fit neatly into legal categories envisioned by the 1996 Telecommunications Act or, even more obviously, the Title II rules written in 1934. That’s why companies not normally thought of as “broadband providers” could find themselves categorized and regulated as telecommunications carriers because their service overlaps with the services provided by ISPs if Title II regulations are placed on broadband services. For example, when Google connects you to a business you searched, should it be considered subject to Title II? Or if a provider of email enables a video messaging session, would it open itself up to Title II regulation on the grounds that it is a facilities-based provider or reseller? Could be. And that’s the fear.
Myth: The FCC could apply Title II to broadband, but exercise its forbearance authority when dealing with innovative companies and services.
Fact: Reclassifying broadband services as telecommunication services under Title II would burden 1/6 of the nation’s economy with stringent, investment-inhibiting government regulation. The government would have expansive power over all broadband services, likely including all edge providers and consumer broadband applications and services. The process necessary to analyze and identify which areas of the nation’s broadband economy the FCC would spare from heavy government intrusion would be both lengthy and costly. Additional time and resources would probably be squandered in the litigation that will inevitably follow.
Myth: Unlike Title II, the FCC does not have the power to promote an open Internet under the limited provisions of Section 706.
Fact: Relying on Section 706 to protect consumers and ensure an Open Internet is a superior choice to the overbroad, utility-style Title II regulatory framework of the 1934 Communications Act.
The FCC’s Section 706-like approach in 2010, created rules that found the right balance between regulations necessary to advance consumer protection goals and the need to attract new investment to broadband to ensure future deployments of modern high-speed networks. Under those rules, access to capital grew and we saw massive growth in the digital app economy, video over broadband, VoIP, the advent of tablet computing, and the rise of mobile e-commerce.
Moreover, a Federal Appeals court has given Section 706 its seal of approval and the FCC can assert this authority with confidence. In fact, the courts have said that the FCC is empowered to create rules “governing broadband providers’ treatment of Internet traffic…that they will preserve and facilitate the “virtuous circle” of innovation that has driven the explosive growth of the Internet.”
The facts are clear: Reclassification of broadband under Title II is unnecessary to ensure continued Internet openness and would backfire with harmful consequences for innovation and investment. The FCC should instead make use of its powers under Section 706 to protect consumers, promote innovation and encourage nationwide deployment of next-generation broadband.
Wednesday, October 01
Over at The Hill, Julian Hattem breaks down how the FCC is looking to improve mobile broadband:
The commission on Friday announced that, at its meeting next month, it will take up a series of proposals to explore ways for companies to use more of the nation’s airwaves and build new antenna systems. The FCC will also look at an item to help broadcast companies share the same channel, which would incentivize them to give up their current spectrum licenses for wireless companies to bid on in next year’s auction.
“Seizing the opportunities of mobile innovation is one of the FCC’s highest priorities,” Chairman Tom Wheeler wrote in a blog post.
So far, wireless companies are onboard with the proposal, and rightly so. Everyone benefits from better use of the airwaves.
Wednesday, September 17
Speaking of net neutrality, over at USA Today, Jeff Pulver makes the case that the government can look out for consumers with onerous new rules:
The heavy hand of the early 20th Century rules is not necessary to protect an open Internet, and the benefit of the more modern “information services” classification approach is that it doesn’t kill off the investment needed to continue modernizing our Internet infrastructure. As FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler and the courts have suggested, other provisions in the act provide ample authority for the FCC to protect consumers from potential anti-competitive conduct.
We should do everything to protect the open Internet – no one argues that. But we are doing the American public a disservice if we insist that the only path to that end is a Title II regulatory approach. If we go down that dead-end road and turn the Internet into a regulated public utility, we will ignore the lessons learned a decade ago in the process that led to the “Pulver Order” and choke off a new wave of innovation and investment that will support the next generation of entrepreneurs.
Among the tidal wave of comments the FCC has received over the open Internet/Title II issue, Fred Campbell of the Center for Boundless Innovation in Technology finds something interesting. As he writes:
A stunning revelation is buried in a lengthy Netflix filing at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC): Netflix used its subscribers as pawns in a Machiavellian game of regulatory chess designed to win favorable Internet regulations.
The filing reveals that Netflix knowingly slowed down its video streaming service with the intention of blaming Internet service providers (ISPs). Specifically, Netflix used its relationships with Internet ‘backbone’ providers (e.g., Level 3, Cogent) to deliberately congest their peering links with ISPs, and at the same time, started publishing ‘ISP speed rankings’ to make it appear that ISPs were causing the congestion. It appears that Netflix cynically held its subscribers hostage to reduced service quality in order to pressure the FCC into adopting favorable Internet regulations that would permanently lower Netflix’s costs of doing business.
Netflix’s plan to frame ISPs for sabotaging its service has been surprisingly successful so far. Some subscribers have blamed their ISPs for the service disruptions Netflix itself caused, which prompted the FCC to open an investigation of the Internet backbone market. Now all Netflix needs is for the FCC to adopt new regulations.
At the very least, Campbell’s post should serve as a reminder that in the current version of the seemingly never-ending “net neutrality debate,” it’s not really little guys vs. big guys, but one big tangled mess of special interests and corporations. All the more reason for the FCC to move forward without extreme caution.
Monday, September 15
This morning, IIA filed Reply Comments with the FCC urging the Commission to embrace its 706 Authority instead of Title II reclassification in order to preserve an open Internet. In our comments we warned that reclassification would reverser decades of Commission precedent and potentially hurt the Internet ecosystem’s continued success and future of innovation.
Section 706 has worked well to protect the open Internet that everyone wants to preserve, while minimizing harm to investment and innovation. Section 706 remains viable and effective. By contrast, Title II is an antiquated regulatory framework designed for the era of monopoly telephone service that would undermine today’s competitive broadband marketplace and disserve consumers, dissuade entrepreneurs and inject unnecessary regulatory uncertainty threatening future dynamism in the broadband ecosystem.
— IIA Co-Chairman Bruce Mehlman
Reliance on Section 706, we argue, enables proper balance between necessary regulation to advance such goals as consumer protection and the imperative of attracting new investment to broadband to ensure further deployments of ever-fast systems that will support the applications of tomorrow. It is also the only way to ensure the innovation and continued explosive growth necessary to meet the ambitious goals of the National Broadband Plan.
The FCC already has enough authority under Section 706 to keep the Internet open with high-speed access for consumers and flexibility for entrepreneurs to innovate. Reclassifying broadband as a utility is like using a sledgehammer when a screwdriver will suffice. Title II is a blunt instrument that might break the Internet’s record of innovation and investment, while Section 706 is a better tool for fixing any problems that arise.
— IIA Co-Chairman Jamal Simmons
Title II, we also note, was not the primary catalyst behind the massive investment that occurred following the enactment of the 1996 Telecommunications Act, and that if regulators wanted an example of the chilling effect Title II could have on broadband, Europe offers a good example.
European policies built on extensive, public utility-style regulation and wholesale network unbundling have depressed broadband investment and access to next-generation networks overseas, as fully 82% of U.S. consumers enjoy access to high-speed broadband networks compared to only 54% of European consumers. Section 706 fortunately offers us an alternative path that will enable the private investment necessary to deploy modern broadband networks—wireline, wireless, and cable—and continue the virtuous circle fueled by light-touch regulation of the Internet ecosystem.
— IIA Honorary Chairman Rick Boucher
To read our Reply Comments in full, visit here.
Friday, September 12
The Progressive Policy Institute has released its annual list of “Investment Heroes,” and at the top of the list are AT&T and Verizon, with estimated capital expenditures of more than $20 billion and $15 billion, respectively. That’s a lot of investment dollars, but as Hal Singer warns in Forbes, current regulations being considered by the FCC could severely hurt that investment going forward:
This week, PPI released its third annual report on “U.S. Investment Heroes,” authored by Diana Carew and Michael Mandel, which analyzes publicly available information to rank non-financial companies by their capital spending in the United States. Once again, AT&T and Verizon ranked first and second, respectively, with $21 and $15 billion in domestic investment in 2013. Comcast, Google, and Time Warner also made PPI’s top 25 list, each investing over $3 billion. The authors credit investment in the core of the network with sparking the rise of the “data-driven economy.”
In light of the results from prior experiments in rate regulation, the FCC should eschew calls to regulate ISPs under Title II. The incremental benefits (potentially barring fast lanes) are dubious, but the incremental costs (less investment at the core of the network) would be economically significant. Given its size and contribution to the U.S. economy in terms of jobs and productivity, even a small decline in core investment in response to rate regulation would impose social costs beyond the immediate harm to broadband consumers from an atrophying network.
Tuesday, September 09
That’s the amount of investment broadband providers have made in networks since 1996, according to a new report from the US Telecom association. Obviously, that’s a lot of investment, and as the paper shows, all those dollars have made a huge difference when it comes broadband access and speeds. Some highlights:
• Over 95% of Americans can access fixed broadband, with 88% having at least two providers to choose from.
• 99% of Americans have broadband at speeds 10 mbps or more available to them.
• 99% also have mobile broadband available, with 97% able to choose from at least three providers.
• Broadband investment jumped to 10% — from $69 billion in 2012 to $75 billion in 2013.
While those are some impressive numbers across the board, It’s not all rosy news from US Telecom. As the association notes in its press release:
Ongoing investment in all broadband networks, wireline and wireless, will be essential to accommodate the expected data traffic growth and enable the continued adoption of more powerful information and communications technologies and applications. Economically efficient investment in U.S. broadband infrastructure will pay off in the form of consumer welfare, business productivity, and global competitiveness. As noted in USTelecom’s blog on investment, a move to stricter Title II regulation could inject unnecessary uncertainty and negative pressures into the broadband investment equation. This poses risks to broadband investment, and also to the so-called “virtuous cycle” of innovation among broadband and related information technology industries.
Investment in broadband matters, which makes any move away from the “light regulatory touch” in place since 1996 all the more problematic. Can the FCC keep the Internet open without putting all this investment at risk? The Progressive Policy Institute thinks so. According to their recent paper, “The Best Path Forward on Net Neutrality,” they’re confident the FCC can achieve its goals by leaning on its Section 706 authority.
Monday, September 08
Late last week, Bret Swanson of Entropy Economics (he’s also one of our Broadband Ambassadors) penned a column for Forbes breaking down the negative effects Title II regulations could have on the growing industry of web video. An excerpt:
Broadband and mobile networks and the core Internet have all grown up outside of Title II. The lack of interference from Washington is a big factor in their success (and why the heavily regulated Title II telephone network is withering away).
A Title II reclassification of broadband would throw broadband into a regulatory world it’s never seen; undermine the economics and existing technical and business arrangements of the entire ecosystem; and ignite a decade’s worth of strident litigation. Not only would Title II disrupt today’s broadband, video, and Web markets, it would also prevent this highly dynamic system from finding its way toward the new technologies, better products, lower prices, and unseen content innovations of the future.
Check out Swanson’s full piece over at Forbes.
Friday, September 05
A new paper from Progressive Policy Institute Senior Fellow Hal Singer and Brookings Non-Resident Senior Fellow Robert Litan examines the effect Title II regulations could have on investment and the Internet ecosystem as a whole. An excerpt:
Imposing public-utility style regulation on Internet access would dampen innovation and investment in more, faster broadband. We propose the FCC implement the same case-by-case process to adjudicate discrimination complaints it has established for cable companies to broadband providers.
It’s not just investment from traditional ISPs that could be negatively effected, Singer and Litan also warn. Many companies that provide services on the Internet could also find themselves among those regulated under Title II:
Reclassifying Internet access as a “telecommunications service” under Title II, as supplemented by the provisions of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, opens up the possibility that other tech services meet the same test. The clearest example would be Google’s ultra-fast broadband service, Google Fiber, which the company is gradually rolling out. But it does not stop there. There is a very slippery slope from subjecting ISPs as common carriers to including other forms of Internet transmissions, because they arguably use “telecommunications services,” the legal hook in Title II for its application.
For example, why not then include within the ambit of a telecommunications service the linkage to an advertiser’s website that Google and Microsoft provide for users of their search engines? By clicking on links, the search engine uses the Internet backbone; if Internet access is a “telecommunications service,” because it provides “transmissions,” then so, too, are the search engines. The same logic potentially applies to Amazon’s Kindle book reader device and service, because its owners are able to download books from Amazon, but only because they are connected to a wireless provider of Internet access in the process. Indeed, what would stop the FCC from classifying as Title II common carriers all device makers that have a connection to an ISP?
It’s not all concern and dire warnings in Singer and Litan’s paper, however, as the duo argue the FCC should focus its efforts on something already within its power:
[W]e think the FCC should eschew the heavy-handed approach of Title II regulation, and lean instead on its Section 706 authority to regulate potential abuses by ISPs on a case-by-case basis. Investment across both edge and content providers will be greater compared to Title II, and the FCC can avoid any unintended consequences such as creeping regulation that encompasses content providers or other ISP services.
Check out the full paper, “The Best Path Forward on Net Neutrality,” over at the Progressive Policy Institute.
Thursday, August 28
In the Washington Post, Larry Downes completely dismantles the argument made by those pushing for regulating broadband under Title II. An excerpt:
So why the hysteria? Many of the groups involved in what became a very personal campaign against Wheeler have long sought to turn the Internet into a regulated utility or even to nationalize it outright. Any real or perceived threat to “the Internet as we know it,” even a manufactured crisis, is simply another opportunity to push an agenda Congress wisely rejected in 1996.
The extremists don’t want the FCC to adopt any rules. They want the agency, instead, to take over. That’s the hammer; net neutrality is just a convenient nail.
Yet much of the mainstream media, including The New York Times and US News, continue to validate the non-conspiracy. They continue to accept, for example, that Wheeler is proposing to “authorize” practices dangerous to the Internet (again, the rules only prohibit practices), to “end” existing net neutrality rules (there are none), and even to allow ISPs to “block” content at their discretion (the no-blocking rule explicitly prohibits this, as does antitrust law).
If you care about the future of the Internet, Downes column is required reading.
Monday, August 25
Remember the FCC’s long-gestating spectrum incentive auctions aimed at freeing up more airwaves for mobile broadband? Well, as The Hill‘s Kate Tummarello reports, the much-needed auctions have hit a potential snag:
Broadcasters are threatening to stand in the way of next year’s highly anticipated airwave auction, putting one the Obama administration’s top priorities at risk.
Officials in the broadcast and wireless industry are hopeful that a new lawsuit from the National Association of Broadcasters will put pressure on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to reach a reach a compromise to save the auction — expected to net billions of dollars — from would could be a months-long delay.
“This lawsuit puts a cloud over the auction,” said one Republican FCC aide.
In order for the auctions to be successful — not to mention generate a sizable chunk of revenue for the Federal Government — broadcasters need to be on board. Hopefully, the FCC can negotiate a deal that makes everyone happy.
At Tech Policy Daily, Babette Boliek clears up some confusion about Title II regulations:
So I say to you NYT, and others under the same misted view of Title II, “I do not think it means what you think it means.” Title II treats telephone services as a common carrier. It is not about content, it is about prices – namely the regulation of prices. The “unjust and unreasonable” language the NYT points to is about prices. For example, if the post office (the quintessential common carrier) offers shipping services to a beef producer, they have to make those services available to other beef producers. Title II does not speak to the instance where beef producers are not offered delivery services (or, by analogy, certain content not allowed), and it does not prohibit the beef producer from asking for special treatment of her beef – like refrigeration or overnight delivery.
For more on Title II and its potential negative impact on broadband, check out our recent Telecommunications Forum featuring FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai.
Friday, August 15
Given all the faulty information being tossed around about regulating broadband under Title II, Patrick Brogan of US Telecom has posted a blog correcting inaccuracies being spread by some of the biggest interest groups. An excerpt:
In comments filed at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and in an earlier blog, net neutrality proponent Free Press, is making a puzzling and questionable claim that broadband investment will not be harmed by reclassification to common carrier regulation under Title II of the Communications Act. In fact, Free Press makes the incorrect claim that “Title II is good for the economy” and actually promotes broadband investment.
On the contrary, a reclassification to Title II would create unambiguously negative pressures on broadband provider investment that would not exist absent reclassification. The question is one of degree and the relative weight compared to opposing forces, like demand and competition. At a minimum, Title II reclassification seems unnecessarily risky and potentially counterproductive for policy goals dependent on more investment, such as expanding deployment to all parts of the country and enhancing U.S. global competitiveness.
Head on over to the US Telecom site to read Brogan’s post. It will add some clarity to a complex — and often misconstrued — issue.
Tuesday, July 29
If you missed last week’s Telecommunications Forum on Title II and its impact on broadband investment, check out archived stream below.
Wednesday, July 23
Tomorrow morning at 10 a.m., at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Washington D.C., IIA is holding a telecommunications forum on Title II regulation and its potential impact on deployment of 21st century broadband networks and services.
The Keynote Speaker for the event is FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai.
Also participating are Fred Campbell, Director of the Center for Boundless Innovation in Technology; George Reed-Dellinger, Senior Vice President and TeleMedia/Internet Analyst for Washington Analysis; Anna-Maria Kovacs, Visiting Senior Policy Scholar at the Georgetown Center for Business and Public Policy; and Roslyn Layton, Ph.D. fellow in Internet Economics at the Center for Communication, Media and Information Technologies at Aalborg University in Denmark.
Our own Co-Chairman Bruce Mehlman will be moderating what promises to be a lively and informative discussion about the future of technology. More information, including how to watch the forum via livestream, is available here.
Monday, July 14
Title II Regulation and its Potential Impact on Deployment of
21st Century Broadband Networks and Services
Thursday, July 24th
Mandarin Oriental Hotel – The Gallery
Featuring Keynote Speaker
Commissioner, Federal Communications Commission
Commissioner Pai will be followed by a diverse panel of legal, policy and financial analysts that will discuss the potential legal, policy and financial impact of regulating broadband under Title II of the Communications Act.
Director, Center for Boundless Innovation in Technology
Senior Vice President and TeleMedia/Internet Analyst, Washington Analysis
Visiting Senior Policy Scholar, Georgetown Center for Business and Public Policy
Ph.D. fellow in Internet Economics, the Center for Communication, Media and Information, Technologies at Aalborg University in Denmark
Bruce Mehlman (Moderator)
Co-Chairman, Internet Innovation Alliance
Breakfast will be served
*This event complies with House and Senate ethics standards*
Thursday, July 03
In an op-ed for The Street, our Co-Chairman Bruce Mehlman argues that applying regulations from 1934 to today’s data services is a terrible idea. An excerpt:
Reclassification would lead to extreme uncertainty.
Regulatory uncertainty is the enemy of investment and innovation. Cisco (CSCO) CEO John Chambers recently wrote the FCC that his company “...is deeply troubled by the proposals” for reclassification, warning that $60 billion a year in broadband investment could be threatened.
Chambers argues that “If Title II regulation is brought to broadband Internet access services, investment in new infrastructure will be severely hamstrung. New, innovative services may not be brought to market because entrepreneurs fear telecommunications regulation.”
Here’s the basic problem: As technology advances and as companies work ever harder to meet growing consumer demand, the old distinction between companies that focus on “transmission” and those that focus on “content” is vanishing. Each can own networks; each can (and often does) provide data and voice services. Convergence and cross-platform competition are the order of the day, yet Title II would shackle ISPs and some of the world’s most innovative companies with a regulatory regime designed for the 1930s telephone monopoly. It makes no sense.
Check out Mehlman’s full op-ed.
Tuesday, June 24
Eighty years ago this month, the Telecommunications Act of 1934 was created to regulate America’s nascent telephone service. At the time, only about 12 percent of U.S. families had phone service and rotary phones were the norm. Touch-tone phones wouldn’t appear for another three decades. This was the era of “party lines” and operators memorialized in movies sitting in front of large switchboards connecting callers to “KLondike 5-1234.”
As we mark the law’s 80th anniversary, now is not the time to slap the modern, high-speed, innovative and entrepreneur embracing Internet with rules that Congress designed for rotary telephones.
Keeping the Internet available to everyone is the right goal. However, applying Title II of the 1934 law, which treated traditional phone service as a public utility, to broadband could bring the pace of entrepreneurism and investment on the Internet to a crawl. Since 1996, when Congress last updated telecommunications laws, ISPs have invested more than $1.2 trillion. The average Internet connection speed in the U.S. has just hit a remarkable 10 Mbps, which is more than enough to stream an HD movie.
Suddenly putting the Internet under Title II could result in too much innovation needing pre-approval by the FCC. Instead of today’s “bottom up” dynamism in which consumer demands drive change, the web could become hostage to the federal government’s timetable. The spirit and freedom to innovate could depend on Congressional and FCC action.
Today’s Internet is the most free and accessible it’s ever been. That’s getting lost in the push for Title II regulation. America’s broadband deployment continues to rise and 70% of us now have broadband connections at home, according to Pew. People are spending more time online, enjoying real-time benefits with education, healthcare and entertainment.
The less drastic solution is reflected in the FCC’s two existing efforts to balance legitimate consumer interests with the need to maintain the Internet’s dynamism. The FCC’s 2005 Open Internet Policy Statement and its 2010 Open Internet Order both struck that balance.
Yes, the DC Court of Appeals overturned parts of the 2010 Order. But crucially, major ISPs continue to abide by the openness policies, which shows that they recognize the value of providing the freedom that Net users demand.
Belligerents making hyperbolic arguments from opposing corners dominate too many debates in Washington. Ensuring an open Internet doesn’t have to be one of those fights. Nobody wants to turn what we used to call the “information superhighway” into a four-lane toll road with federal monitors stationed at every onramp. Nor should there be an HOV lane only accessible for the wealthiest that leaves the rest of us stuck in a slow moving traffic jam.
Now is the time for common sense rules that are fair to consumers and companies and ensure high speed Internet access to individuals and entrepreneurs without the unintended consequences of 1930’s rotary phone era regulation.