It’s the time of year when the policy community is focused on “the state of” everything, leading up to the granddaddy of them all, the State of the Union. Rep. Greg Walden spoke at this year’s State of the Net, and his remarks are worth further study.
Walden is focused on resolving the “net neutrality” issue once and for all to get certainty, because as he says, “Certainty will drive more investment. If we just continue on with litigation versus litigation, Administration versus Administration, America will move further back and back in innovation, and I don’t want that to happen. I want broadband investment to go up, not go flat.” His goal is to “cement that partnership” with the private sector “and move forward and get connectivity everywhere we can at high speed.”
Perhaps unsurprisingly for a representative from Oregon, he paraphrases a familiar slogan of a local company as his theme for this year: “I’m asking all parties, let’s do it.” It’s as simple as that — people coming together in a bipartisan way to agree on the basic principles of an open internet — not regulating broadband under Title II, but regulating things that truly matter to consumers, like no throttling, blocking, or unfair discrimination against legitimate online content — and produce a bill.
And any bill should protect consumers consistently, anywhere on the internet, regardless of the type of company they are interacting with at the time. As Walden notes, during the recent Global Economic Forum at Davos, “some pretty surprising characters said it’s more than just the internet service providers that may need to have a discussion about neutrality… there’s a role for the FTC, the FCC, and Congress. And if there’s bad behavior, we will go after it. I don’t care who it is. And the Energy and Commerce Committee has a pretty good record on doing that going back to Republican and Democratic Chairs.”
There’s a chance to forge the bipartisan alliances that have long developed the best technology policies for our nation that put consumers’ interests and expectations first and produce a forward-looking bill that enshrines the principles of the open internet into law and applies them across the entire internet ecosystem. Rep. Walden is ready to lead on this; others should work with him to get something done for the American people.