Critics of the Federal Communication Commission’s plan to remove Title II regulation of the internet often ignore one fundamental point: Nearly everyone in the tech industry, from the smallest start-ups to the largest ISPs, agrees with the basic premise of net neutrality – that network providers shouldn’t be allowed to pick winners and losers.
The actual debate about the future of the internet comes down to a question of approach. For TIA’s members – the companies that build and supply today’s high-speed networks – the best approach is one that relies on smart technologies rather than on blind regulations. If technology and technologists, guided by smart and light-touch regulations, are allowed to lead the way, we will both ensure an open internet that serves everyone and make certain the private sector can continue its rapid pace of network investment and innovation.
Unfortunately, the FCC’s 2015 order imposing strict utility regulations on the internet rejected the role of technology, opting instead to elevate government bureaucrats over engineers and network managers. Under that regulatory environment, where nearly every business and technology decision is constrained by complex government demands – network capacity and flexibility are put at significant risk.
Modern networks operate with remarkable efficiency, speed and fairness – delivering an ever-improving and evolving consumer experience. This is possible because of the true innovators in the internet ecosystem – the engineers and developers who run network operations and create new products and services.
Governing the internet as a public utility puts these creators behind government lawyers and regulators. It forces them to seek permission to do even the most basic work that will make our networks better or deliver new technology solutions that require ultra-fast speeds and/or high degrees of reliability.
The combination of business uncertainty and the need to take a cautionary, lawyer-driven approach to network management would ultimately lead to dumbed-down systems and scaled-back investments. The ironic result of this supposedly consumer-driven regulation is that consumers will have less access, slower speeds and reduced reliability.
As the FCC considers net neutrality this week, commissioners have an opportunity to take a balanced path forward, one that delivers on the essential goal of an open internet, while accelerating U.S. technological innovation and leadership.
We support Ajit Pai’s Restoring Internet Freedom proposal because it achieves such a balance by returning to the long-standing and bipartisan approach of light-touch rules – rules that allowed the internet to thrive for the past two decades and that will put our ever-smarter network technology and technologists back in charge. The chairman’s plan creates a framework to protect an open internet and encourage the investment that drives innovation and allows for the creation of even more highly-skilled and good paying jobs across the country.
It’s also important to reiterate that TIA and its members support the principles that consumers should be entitled to access the content of their choice; run applications and services of their choice; and connect to the internet with their choice of legal devices that do not harm the network. We believe it is essential to ensure that competition exists among network providers, application and service providers, and content providers.
Over the course of last year, Pai has extensively reviewed the existing regulations through an open and deliberative process where the public has provided tremendous input. We’ve weighed in with our ideas (here and here) on how to return to a balanced, light-touch approach and we’ve argued that there is a responsible and effective way to preserve the principles of an open internet without the restricting consequences of Title II regulation.
Decades ago, policymakers made the right decision when they recognized that the internet is too dynamic and too important in our lives and businesses to limit its growth and reach by imposing a prescriptive regulatory regime. The result of that recognition was an enormous win for consumers, who are continually being offered more choices, faster speeds and innovative new products. By returning to that long-standing policy, we will unleash several more decades of creativity and growth, significant private investment and the deployment of even faster and more ubiquitous broadband networks across the country.
Cinnamon Rogers is the senior vice president of government affairs for the Telecommunications Industry Association.
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