Travis H. Brown, Contributor
With just one announcement in support of “net neutrality,”President Obama could upend the way in which the Internet functions in the United States. With just one ill-conceived decision, the President could thwart innovation and stifle investment. The White House’s recommendation to the Federal Communications Commission – that broadband providers be subjected to decades-old regulations that make no sense in the 21st century – could spell disaster for one of the United States’ most vital sectors.
The Internet, while of course utilized globally, is a uniquely American success story because of the freedom enjoyed by both providers and users. While other nations throttle bandwidth and restrict their citizens’ access to information, the United States fosters an Internet landscape that is friendly to commerce and creativity alike. By insisting on “net neutrality” (particularly the highly outdated Title II regulations, which were created for a 1930s Bell telephone monopoly that no longer exists), President Obama is threatening the Internet that American users know and value today.
If the FCC acts upon the President’s recommendation, the Internet will be classified as a public utility rather than an information service (the “information service” classification, it should be noted, has broad bipartisan support and was codified by the Clinton Administration in the Telecommunications Act of 1996). As AT&T Senior Executive Vice President Jim Cicconi noted in a statement regarding Obama’s plan: “Light-touch regulation has encouraged levels of investment unprecedented by any industry and spawned incredible innovation. . . . The White House is proposing to put the Internet and our economy at risk.”
So-called “net neutrality” is not just opposed by industry insiders. Innovation advocates on both sides of the aisle oppose the President’s plan. The Progressive Policy Institute, a left-leaning think tank, said this week that “Title II is not necessary to protect consumers from the hypothetical threat discrimination by broadband providers . . . . Moving backwards to a forced-sharing regime would likely chill broadband investment, along with its job-creation and impact on growth, and preserve the ‘digital divide.’”
Quite simply, market competition makes the Internet what it is. Competition spurs innovation and investment, thereby delivering increasingly better, more useful experiences for end users. Title II contains language that highlights an aggressive regulatory agenda, under which companies that make investments in broadband infrastructure to share those investments with competitors at government-set prices. This dangerous approach flies in the face of the fact that, after the FCC’s 2003-2005 decisions to decrease broadband regulations, investment in the industry surged and high-speed Internet began to drive national economic growth.
Without this necessary deregulation, America would not be the international leader in Web innovation. The President’s stance on net neutrality would take a robust, job-creating industry and force upon it an 80-year-old rule with no bearing on modern technology. There’s a reason why industry experts, tech advocates, leaders of all political persuasions, and everyday Web users oppose net neutrality – it makes no sense for the 2014 marketplace. The FCC should reject the President’s request, and keep the Internet the American success story that it is.