Because every American
should have access
to broadband Internet.

The Internet Innovation Alliance is a broad-based coalition of business and non-profit organizations that aim to ensure every American, regardless of race, income or geography, has access to the critical tool that is broadband Internet. The IIA seeks to promote public policies that support equal opportunity for universal broadband availability and adoption so that everyone, everywhere can seize the benefits of the Internet - from education to health care, employment to community building, civic engagement and beyond.

The Podium

Blog posts tagged with 'Rick Boucher'

Monday, April 18

Boucher on Netflix’s Deception

By Brad

Over at Multichannel News, our own Rick Boucher has written a piece examining Netflix’s admission that it has reduced video speeds for the customers of two wireless providers. An excerpt:

Netflix’s stunning admission that, for five years, it reduced the video speeds of customers of Verizon Wireless and AT&T Wireless — while not doing so for customers of Sprint and T-Mobile — is little short of breathtaking. It was an exercise in hypocrisy to claim that broadband providers were degrading the quality of its video when, in fact, Netflix — without notifying its customers — was doing precisely that.
Recall the history here to understand why Netflix’s actions were so brazen and deserving of governmental review. Traditionally, peering agreements among content networks and last-mile Internet-service providers (ISPs) were never regulated, but were always negotiated between private parties.
For Netflix, arm’s-length negotiations posed a problem, because as the share of total bandwidth taken by its content grew (up to 37% at peak hours, according to one survey in March of 2015), its position became ever more untenable. It wanted ISPs to build more bandwidth to consumers for Netflx’s use, but it didn’t want to help pay for that. It didn’t want its own business model constrained.

You can read Boucher’s full piece, titled “Netflix’s ‘House of Cards’ Collapses,” over at Multichannel News.

Monday, March 28

Boucher on Internet Privacy Regulations

By Brad

Bloomberg BNA recently published an op-ed from our own Rick Boucher on ensuring the Internet regulatory field remains equal for all parties. You can download a version of the full op-ed in a PDF, but here’s an excerpt:

Privacy in our digital world is once again making headlines, from the controversy over unlocking Apple’s encryption system to the latest breaches of information from e-commerce providers. Lost in all of this discussion—though also illuminated by it—is a tectonic shift in who has access to a user’s electronic data, a change that has profound implications for how privacy should be protected in the future.

Start from a simple point, with which users of digital devices would likely agree: All participants in the Internet economy should extend similar privacy protections to users. That only seems fair. The Internet user’s most important interest, after all, is to have confidence that his or her privacy is being uniformly protected throughout the Internet ecosystem by all entities that have access to users’ information.

Wednesday, March 16

Promising Signs From the FCC’s Lifeline Reform

By Rick Boucher

4755_Boucher.gif

“Internet access has become a pre-requisite for full participation in our economy and our society, but nearly one in five Americans is still not benefitting from the opportunities made possible by the most powerful and pervasive platform in history.”

Those were the words of FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler and Commissioner Mignon Clyburn in a post at the Commission’s website announcing a new, modern direction for the Lifeline program. They are words we can all agree with. But beyond those words are the FCC’s actual plan to modernize Lifeline and whether the path put forward by the Commission will be the most effective one they can take.

Reduced to its key ingredients, the FCC’s plan has four key parts:

1) It expands the program to cover broadband internet access services;
2) It sets minimum service standards for both voice and broadband;
3) It streamlines the rules governing the program by eliminating unnecessary regulation;
4) It utilizes a National Eligibility Verifier to take overseeing Lifeline eligibility out of the hands of the carriers

On the surface, each of these four parts are a step in the right direction. In fact, all four were, in some fashion, a part of the recommendations in our Lifeline white paper.  But as with any regulatory shift — especially for a program as large and as important as Lifeline — the true success of the FCC’s reform plan can’t be measured until all the details come to light and the plan is actually implemented. So for now we get to play the waiting game. 

Still, Chairman Wheeler and the other FCC Commissioners should be commended for listening to every interested party when it comes to reforming Lifeline. The plan the Commission has put forward may not be perfect — for example, there has yet to mention of much-needed eligible telecommunications carrier (ETC) reform. And the devil will, of course, be in the plan’s details. But what the FCC has revealed of the plan so far is definitely encouraging.

Monday, February 08

Telecommunications Act Turns 20

By Brad

Late last week, the San Jose Mercury News published an op-ed from our own Rick Boucher and Larry Irving marking the 20th anniversary of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. In the piece, Boucher and Irving discuss how the relatively “light-touch” regulation helped spur broadband growth in America, and how the FCC would be wise to stay the course. An excerpt:

The act’s framers promoted light-touch regulation and a structure that led to an expanding Internet driven by new technologies, devices and applications. These forward-looking Clinton-era policies placed competition and investment as the central catalysts to drive innovation and advance consumer benefits.

Two stark paths now lie before the Federal Communications Commission (FCC): It can advance pro-investment, facilities-based broadband competition or it can discourage investment and broadband build-out.

Check out the full op-ed over at the San Jose Mercury News.

Monday, January 11

Set “No Rate Regulation of Broadband” in Stone

By Rick Boucher

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In advocating for new regulations, Net Neutrality proponents have consistently made clear that any new rules should not include rate regulation over Internet access services. For example, when President Obama announced his support for regulating the Internet as a Title II service under the Communications Act, he explicitly stated that such effort should include “forbearing from rate regulation.” Likewise, in applying Title II to broadband last May, FCC Chairman Wheeler stated that the Commission’s net neutrality effort would “forgo sections of Title II that pose a meaningful threat to network investment” and specifically declared that the “goal is not to have rate regulation.” Tomorrow, the House Energy & Commerce Subcommittee on Communications & Technology will consider the bill H.R. 2666, “No Rate Regulation of Broadband Internet Access Act,” aimed at codifying these clearly stated intentions into law.

President Obama and Chairman Wheeler were right to reject rate regulation. Any attempt to introduce pricing rules over the dynamic broadband sector would harm consumers by retarding future network investments. Such actions would also strike a blow to the American economy with lost jobs and decreased productivity. H.R. 2666, authored by Rep. Kinzinger, offers a smart, protective measure to help continue the virtuous cycle of innovation that has fueled the Internet’s success. If enacted, his bill would turn the stated intentions of President Obama and Chairman Wheeler into law.

And adopting that law would remove a substantial part of the uncertainty stemming from Title II reclassification of broadband and have the highly positive effect of giving broadband providers greater confidence to increase network investments.

Technological advancement is synonymous with American ingenuity. Successful bi-partisan, light-touch regulatory policies over the past two decades have made the American technology sector the envy of the world, increasing competition, spurring innovation and inviting greater private investment. These polices opened the door to Gigabit level network deployments by AT&T, Comcast, CenturyLink and Google Fiber, and these advances have increased broadband throughput tenfold and made high-bandwidth streaming easier for consumer connected devices.

The subcommittee should approve H.R. 2666, which would bar the FCC from regulating the prices charged for broadband. Without legislation, no guarantee exists to prevent future Commissions from rate regulating the Internet. Congressional action in this area is welcome given that promises are mere words until they are set in stone by statute.

Wednesday, November 18

Highlights From Our Discussion on Modernizing Lifeline

By IIA

Recently, we held a discussion on updating the Lifeline program for the broadband age. Moderated by our own Rick Boucher, “Modernizing the Federal Lifeline Program for Broadband and the 21st Century” featured:

Ronald A. Brisé
Commissioner, Florida Public Service Commission

Randolph J. May
President, Free State Foundation

Dorothy Rosenbaum
Senior Fellow, Food Assistance Policy, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

Dr. Nicol Turner-Lee
Vice President and Chief Research and Policy Officer, Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council (MMTC)

In what proved to be a lively discussion, each of the participants made a number of great points. Some quotes:

By removing the carriers from the process you remove the incentives that have led to some of the [waste, fraud, and abuse] problems. — Randolph J. May

I think it’s important to realize that SNAP is the program that covers the broadest group of low income people. Medicaid is getting closer now in the states that took the Medicaid expansion but in other states Medicaid misses out on a lot of childless adults. — Dottie Rosenbaum

I don’t think there is a conflict between being a safety net program and the concept of a handout providing that the parameters are set. — Ronald A. Brise

We found that getting people online for that first year, encouraged them to want to become consumers of broadband, because they realized the relevance to not only themselves, but to their families. — Dr. Nicol Turner-Lee

We actually recommend in our white paper the process of coordinated enrollment. Commissioner Clyburn at the FCC before we published this white paper recommended the same thing. — Rick Boucher

The full transcript of the discussion is available here. Our thanks to all the participants for taking the time to discuss this critical issue.

Tuesday, November 10

Savings From Rebooting Lifeline

By IIA

A new paper from Anna-Maria Kovacs, Ph.D., CFA published by the Georgetown Center for Business and Public Policy makes a convincing case that the FCC can save hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars as it reboots Lifeline for the broadband age.

The full paper, “Regulation in Financial Translation: Rebooting Lifeline for Broadband,” is available for download, but here are some highlights:

The FCC’s FNPRM states that the FCC seeks to make the program more efficient by “targeting support to those low-income consumers who really need it while at the same time shifting the burden of determining consumer eligibility for Lifeline support from the provider. We further see to leverage efficiencies from other existing federal programs and expand our outreach efforts.” An effective way to accomplish this goal is to link Lifeline to SNAP [Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program] for eligibility verification and enrollment.

As Kovacs points out in the paper, reducing waste, fraud and abuse of the Lifeline program is important. But just as important is ensuring those reduction efforts aren’t duplicative. Again, from the report:

As the FCC’s FNPRM indicates, the job of verifying that households have low-income is already being verified by other federal agencies. Most notably, the USDA verifies the eligibility of those households that quality for SNAP. SNAP not only enrolls those households whose low income qualifies them, but de-enrolls them if their income rises. In other words, SNAP already does the job the FCC duplicates at a cost of roughly $600 million. Thus, the first argument for relying on SNAP for eligibility verification is that doing so would save roughly $600 million in wasted administrative efforts.

$600 million is obviously a lot of savings. But as Kovacs goes on to note, the benefits of linking Lifeline to SNAP go beyond the monetary because:

It would provide automatic enrollment for low-income households that need Lifeline, and make it easier for them to apply the discount to the technology and provider of their choice. By making it easier for both providers and low-income households to participate in Lifeline, the FCC would also enhance competition.

For more on rebooting Lifeline for the broadband age, check out this op-ed from our Honorary Chairman Rick Boucher that was recently published in The Hill. An excerpt

With bipartisan support in Congress, the FCC now has a unique opportunity to completely overhaul and reshape the program for the 21st century. The central challenge is to add broadband as a Lifeline benefit without a significant increase in program costs. Tinkering with the existing program or making minor modifications to program administration at the edges will likely fail to deliver the promise of ubiquitous and modern high-speed broadband access for low-income consumers.

Wednesday, October 21

Rick Boucher on Why Congressional Action is Needed on Net Neutrality

By IIA

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.

Wednesday, October 07

Rick Boucher on Lifeline & Net Neutrality

By Brad

Our Honorary Chairman Rick Boucher sat down with RCR Wireless to talk about two pressing issues facing the FCC. Check out the video:

RCR Wireless’ Jeff Hawn also penned an article about the conversation with Boucher. An excerpt from the piece:

While the [Lifeline] program has been successful in achieving its limited initial purpose, Boucher is a proponent of it not only being expanded but also reformed. “Today Lifeline is outdated because it doesn’t cover broadband. Broadband is now the way Americans prefer to communicate and it is absolutely essential.”

Boucher explained IIA has three basic tenants of how it would like to see Lifeline reformed: “First, the program should be expanded to include broadband; second, we believe that carriers should no longer have a role in determining who is eligible for Lifeline. Today, the carriers determine who is eligible for Lifeline and the carriers have every incentive to qualify as many subscribers as possible.”

This method of allowing the carriers to determine qualification has often led to a large number of people who did not qualify for the program. Boucher would rather see the individual state governments determine Lifeline qualification the same way they determine if people are qualified for other federal welfare programs like food stamps.

“The third reform, [which] we think makes a great deal of sense,” Boucher said, “is to send the Lifeline subsidy directly to the consumer, not to the carrier.” This would make the subsidy portable and allow consumers to select the carrier best suited for their needs.

Check out Hawn’s full article over at RCR Wireless.

Monday, September 28

Boucher on Using EBT Cards for Lifeline

By Brad

In an opinion piece for Multichannel News, our Honorary Chairman Rick Boucher makes the case for shifting Lifeline into the world of EBT:

To spur competition by encouraging a larger number of carriers to participate in the program and to give consumers the most flexible way to choose from among competing carriers, we support moving the Lifeline subsidy to an electronic benefit transfer (EBT) card.

Putting the Lifeline benefit on an EBT card and asking the states to confirm eligibility would empower consumers in the marketplace and help prevent fraud. Yet even as many states have adopted the convenience and accountability of moving government-provided benefits to an EBT card, some still resist this change for Lifeline.

They contend that EBT cards would burden certain beneficiaries, such as the elderly, disabled and rural poor, based on an incorrect assumption that the cards would have to be swiped at a retail location on a regular basis.

Let’s review how eligibility determinations and EBT cards would work in practice under a new Lifeline program.

Check out Boucher’s full op-ed over at Multichannel News.

Thursday, September 10

Boucher on Fundamental Lifeline Reform

By Brad

Our Honorary Chairman Rick Boucher has penned an op-ed for The Hill laying out how Lifeline should be reformed. An excerpt:

A thoroughgoing reform is needed, one that delivers a fundamentally new program based on core principles similar to those recently announced by FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn. For example, why not start by putting the consumer in charge? Today’s program is centered around the carriers who receive the $9.25 per month Lifeline subsidy and also determine the eligibility of individuals for the program. A reformed Lifeline program should be consumer-centric, recognizing the power that consumers exercise in today’s competitive communications marketplace and building off of that recognition.

Instead of giving the subsidy to the carriers, it should be given directly to consumers who could then decide where it should be spent. To promote consumer choice, eligible individuals could be issued a “Lifeline Benefit Card,” similar to food stamp cards, which would allow them to easily apply the subsidy to broadband or basic telephone service or some combination of both. Consumers could also shop among the various service providers and submit their Lifeline Benefit Card to the one they choose. In theory, this change could be made with little increase in program costs.

You can read Boucher’s full op-ed over at The Hill.

Wednesday, August 19

Let’s Get Nerdy Season 2, Episode 2: Lifeline

By Brad

IIA Honorary Chairman Rick Boucher discusses the future of Lifeline.

Tuesday, August 18

Let’s Get Nerdy Season 2, Episode 1: Lifeline

By Brad

In the first episode of our second season of Let’s Get Nerdy, IIA Honorary Chairman Rick Boucher discusses why and how the Lifeline program should modernized for our current digital age.

Thursday, July 23

The Cooling Effect of Title II

By Brad

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.”

Thursday, June 11

IIA Letter to FCC Regarding Lifeline

By Jamal Simmons

Earlier today, IIA sent a letter to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler expressing our support for the Commission’s upcoming rulemaking proceeding soon to be initiated to advance Lifeline reform. From that letter, signed by IIA Chairmen Rick Boucher, Bruce Mehlman, Larry Irving, and Jamal Simmons:

“In the U.S., consumers with economic means have nearly ubiquitous access to broadband, yet almost two-thirds of our nation’s low-income community continues to seek that similar opportunity.  Without broadband availability, low-income families face an uphill battle in obtaining the American dream.

In bringing Lifeline into the 21st century, broadband should be included as an integral, more affordable offering of the program, and consumers should be empowered by providing the subsidy directly to eligible people instead of companies. Moreover, to enhance administrative efficiency, we urge the FCC to shift program eligibility verification away from companies that are not accountable to the American people, and instead allow states to verify eligibility for Lifeline at the same time they determine consumer eligibility for other federal low-income programs. Such ‘coordinated enrollment’ would benefit consumers by streamlining the eligibility process and ultimately enable subsidy recipients to receive a ‘Lifeline Benefit Card’ where consumers could apply the funds to the provider of their choosing. These reforms would make program participation for all service providers more attractive, thereby broadening consumer choice and stimulating competition for the low-income consumer purchasing power.

IIA applauds the Commission for quickly moving forward to initiate a new proceeding aimed to advance Lifeline reform this year. The time for reform is now, the need is great, and the goal is achievable.“

You can read the full letter here. Additionally, you can download our white paper on reforming the Lifeline program that we published last November.

Friday, May 29

eWeek on “Permanently Securing Net Neutrality”

By Brad

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

Permanently Securing Net Neutrality — Teleconference

By IIA

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 01

Boucher Returns to Sirius XM’s “Morning Briefing”

By Brad

Earlier today, our Honorary Chairman Rick Boucher returned to Sirius XM’s “Morning Briefing” to once again talk technology and regulations with host Tim Farley. Asked to respond to presidential candidate Sen. Rand Paul’s pledge to overturn the FCC’s recent Title II classification, Boucher argued that a congressional repeal be ineffective (the President would simply veto the resolution), and that a bi-partisan bill offered by Republicans would be a better path — especially for Democrats, since the current net neutrality rules could be swept away in the next election.

Here’s audio of the interview.

Wednesday, April 08

Rick Boucher In The Hill

By Brad

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

Boucher on Bipartisanship and Internet Growth

By Brad

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.

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