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 'Fcc'

Monday, July 27

“FCC Should Not Import Monopoly Rules for a Competitive Future”

By Brad

Our Co-Chairman Bruce Mehlman has a piece in Bloomberg BNA on regulation the FCC is considering as America transitions to all Internet-based networks. An excerpt:

The nation’s historic transition away from the copper wire toward a modern Internet Protocol-based (“IP”) communication system represents a critical technological leap forward. The United States aims to complete this transition by 2020; indeed, the impetus for this effort actually first came from FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, then in his role as head of an advisory board on technology transition.

This transition will ultimately bring consumers new technology, billions of dollars in new infrastructure, and faster and better broadband services and applications. Today, test trials for the transition are underway in Alabama and Florida to work out technical issues and ensure superior service quality for consumers.

Recently, however, Chairman Wheeler publicly outlined his proposed next steps for the IP transition that include applying old monopoly-style telephone rules to favor and advance certain carriers’ business models. Applying such rules to IP-based broadband communications networks of the future would benefit companies that serve businesses, yet provide little to no benefit to the average consumer.

Specifically, in response to the supposed need to “preserve competition in the enterprise market,” the FCC plans to require that “replacement services be offered to competitive providers at rates, terms and conditions that are reasonably comparable to those of the legacy services.”

Check out Mehlman’s full piece from Bloomberg BNA

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.”

Tuesday, July 14

Regulation and Delayed Investment

By IIA

A recent Georgetown University Study by Kevin Hassett and Robert Shapiro confirms that the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) decision to subject Internet Service Providers (“ISPs) to “Title II” public utility regulation will “have significant adverse effects on future investment in the Internet.”

The study highlights how new regulation can have a “destructive, negative effect” if capital investment is delayed as a result of the need to resolve new market uncertainty. It notes how the history of FCC regulation of Internet companies has been surprisingly uniform and consistent. Whether under a Democratic or Republican Administration, the historical arc of broadband regulation gravitated toward a light-touch deregulatory approach that treated the Internet as an information service rather than a heavily-regulated telephone common carrier service.

Such treatment of broadband as an information service allowed the pace of Internet adoption to rapidly exceed that of the personal computer or dial-up Internet service. Technological advances and competition accelerated broadband uptake by lowering its “average, quality-adjusted price” that further accelerated its uptake. By contrast, studies have detailed how common carrier regulation inhibited competition for consumers and businesses, and discouraged and slowed innovation in telephone service.

Consumers now, however, bear the risks of the FCC’s decision to reverse course and impose new regulations on ISPs that today provide much of the Internet’s infrastructure and content. Such regulation could ultimately result in increased costs and price for Internet service beyond new universal service fees. Moreover, the Georgetown study notes how the regulatory path toward Title II may result in reduced efficiency of key network arrangements that depend on the Internet platform. Reduced efficiency could have the long-term negative effect of devaluing the investments made in those platforms or based on them and thus trigger many in the Internet ecosystem to minimize the costs of regulation rather than maximize efficient operations.

In addition, the study identifies scholarship that quantifies the negative potential impact of telecommunications regulation on broadband investment. For example, the ban on “paid priority” arrangements could affect telemedicine applications and cost the economy $100 million per year by 2019. More generally, Title II regulation of ISPs could reduce their “future wireline investments by between 17.8 percent and 31.7 percent per year, and their future total wireline and wireless investments by between 12.8 percent and 20.8 percent per year.”

The study’s authors also raise helpful international comparisons to better understand the imminent consequences of Title II regulation on broadband investment. Specifically, they note the “large negative effects on investment” if our nation’s regulatory model were moved closer to the heavy-handed regulations that governed Europe’s communications landscape in the first decade of the 21st century.

Finally, the Georgetown study’s most sobering point is how the “negative effects of uncertainty” resulting from the FCC’s sudden policy shift and on-going litigation may actually understate the harm of reduced broadband investment.

In light of this additional evidence and the potential harm to broadband and consumers, the Internet Innovation Alliance again emphasizes its support for a bipartisan legislative solution to promote an Open Internet without overly burdensome Title II Common Carrier Regulations for 21st Century broadband. 

Friday, July 03

The Benefits of Regulation Must Outweigh the Burdens

By Brad

Last week, we held a discussion in Washington DC on how regulators can help — rather than hinder — the broadband economy. The featured speaker at this event was FCC Commissioner Mike O’Rielly, who delivered his vision for how the FCC and other regulatory bodies should fulfill their vital role in the face of the fast-moving technology. An excerpt from Commission O’Rielly’s speech:

As regulators consider proposals that would impact the Internet or the deployment of broadband, thoughtful analysis should be done prior to enactment to consider whether the costs and burdens imposed are greater than the benefits of acting. Given the amazing positives to be gained from an Internet free and open from government intrusion — or at least significant government intervention — there should be a universal requirement for quantifiable data under a cost-benefit analysis regime. It seems universally accepted that there are direct and indirect costs to every burden placed on Internet activities. It should be our duty to show the detailed costs and benefits of every proposal, not hypothetical claims that give short shrift to statutory requirements to do an actual analysis. If a regulator involved in some capacity with the Internet cannot accept this basic premise, maybe they are in the wrong line of work.

Let me also take a moment to provide a few other premises that most people who operate in this space accept: Internet-related taxes depress deployment and adoption; costs of regulations are ultimately passed onto consumers; and the structure of the Internet will produce some type of reaction to undermine any imposed regulation. If these premises are accepted, and they have proven to betrue time and time again, it means that regulators need to be extremely cautious in acting or risk decreasing deployment, or raising prices — and all for naught.

You can read Commissioner O’Rielly’s full remarks — and watch a video of the event, which also featured Stuart N. Brotman of the Brookings Institution, James Reid from TIA, Susan Bitter Smith of the Arizona Corporation Commission, and our own Bruce Mehlman — by clicking here.

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 15

Simmons Urges Congressional Action

By Brad

At CNBC, our Co-Chairman Jamal Simmons has an op-ed explaining how the Federal Communications Commission’s new open Internet rules could be swept away with the next presidential election, and how Congress should make permanent in law prohibitions against slowing, throttling and creating Internet fast lanes without imposing public utility-style regulation on broadband. An excerpt:

All those who care about preserving an open Internet that maintains the flexibility to innovate and develop new products and services without entrepreneurs having to seek government permission should support a new law. A new law won’t be perfect and will require both sides to make compromises, but it is a far better path to certainty and avoids legal and political wrangling that could tie advancement up for years, slowing down innovation and economic growth in the meantime.

Voters should ask Congress to pass an open Internet law before all attention turns to the presidential campaign. Otherwise, the next president will hold in her — or his — hands the future of the open Internet. Protecting such an important resource from the whims of shifting presidential political winds is among the most important things voters can do to keep the economy growing.

You can check out Simmons’ full op-ed over at CNBC.

Thursday, May 14

MMTC Sends Letter to FCC and Urges Modernization of Lifeline Program to Include Broadband

By Brad

The Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council (MMTC) has assembled an impressive list of co-signers for a letter to the FCC encouraging the Commission to rapidly and comprehensively reform the Lifeline universal service program for the digital age. An excerpt from the letter:

Success in upgrading this 30 year-old program will require policy makers to embrace a new approach. Commissioner Clyburn outlined her thoughts on the subject in a 2012 speech at the American Enterprise Institute referencing immediate Lifeline reform where she stated that reform must occur in a manner that, “…increases the value of other federal investment, reduces administrative burdens, reduces incentives for waste, fraud and abuse, addresses privacy concerns of consumers, streamlines the program to encourage participation and leverages efficiencies from other programs.”

On behalf of the constituents that entrust our organizations to ensuring parity in telecommunications services and other public benefits, we believe that the Commission has the tools necessary to create a new twenty-first century model for the Lifeline program that would serve the needs of low income consumers in an efficient, secure and respectful fashion.

You can read the MMTC letter, which includes its recommendations on how best to reform Lifeline, at the FCC’s website. And for more on the subject, check out our white paper “Bringing the FCC’s Lifeline Program Into the 21st Century.”

Thursday, May 07

Commissioner Clyburn on Lifeline Reform

By Brad

FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn has penned an op-ed for Multichannel News on the need to reform the Commission’s Lifeline program. An excerpt:

The FCC’s Lifeline program, originally established in 1985, was designed to ensure that Americans have universal access to telephone service because it was found that such access was “crucial to full participation in our society and economy, which are increasingly depending upon the rapid exchange of information.” The FCC emphasized at the time that its “responsibilities under the Communications Act require us to take steps … to prevent degradation of universal service and the division of our society …  into information ‘haves’ and ‘have nots.’ ”
Today, a full three decades after the creation of Lifeline, the program still only funds voice service. It has been stuck in a bygone era since its inception and is in need of serious reform.

Commissioner Clyburn goes on to list her recommendations for reform, which include:

• Establishing minimum service standards for any provider that receives a Lifeline subsidy. This will ensure that we get the most value for each universal service dollar spent and better service for Lifeline recipients.

• Relieving providers of responsibility for determining customer eligibility. Lifeline is the only federal benefit program I know of where the provider determines the consumer’s eligibility. That must cease. For providers, this change would yield significant administrative savings, and for consumers, it would bring dignity to the program experience.

• Leveraging efficiencies from existing programs. A coordinated enrollment system would allow customers to enroll in Lifeline at the same time that they apply for other benefit programs; and

• Instituting public-private partnerships and coordinated outreach efforts. The lack of a centralized effort is leaving too many who qualify behind.

Commissioner Clyburn’s recommendations dovetail nicely with IIA’s own assessment of how best to bring Lifeline into the digital age. As we outlined in our white paper “Bringing the FCC’s Lifeline Program Into the 21st Century,” there are four key steps the FCC should make:

• Bring the Lifeline Program into the 21st Century by making broadband a key part of the program’s rubric;

• Empower consumers by providing the subsidy directly to eligible people instead of companies;

• Level the playing field between service providers to broaden consumer choice and stimulate competition for their purchasing power;

• Safeguard and simplify the program by taking administration away from companies that are not accountable to the American public, instead vesting that governmental responsibility with an appropriate government agency.

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.

Monday, April 13

Congress Needs to Act

By IIA

In response to the publication of the Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC) Title II Net Neutrality decision in the Federal Register, we encourage Congress to craft legislation in order to avoid legal challenges and market uncertainty. The publication of the decision starts the clock on potential legal challenges, and given that the FCC’s rules will soon take effect, Congress should use this window of opportunity for legislation that sets forth permanent rules to advance Internet openness, continued investment, and innovation in the nation’s vibrant 21st Century digital broadband economy.

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.

Tuesday, April 07

Celebrating a Government Initiative Done Right

By Bruce Mehlman

Recently I had the privilege of participating in Georgetown University’s look back at the National Broadband Plan and its impact. Although far less high-profile than many made-for-the-media-circus endeavors, the National Broadband Plan (NBBP) proved a model of creativity… efficient, effective government, your tax dollars well-spent. Much credit goes to NBBP’s fearless and far-sighted leader Blair Levin, and Blair happily enjoyed a victory lap while heaping praise upon his many able lieutenants and soldiers… both outcomes to be expected by those who know Blair well!

While others dove deep into the specific recommendations made and outcomes achieved in the report itself, I took away four core conclusions from the five-years-after look back:

1. People Matter. Being the government is not a barrier to efficiency, innovation or effectiveness… given the right team and right processes.  Blair gathered a “best and brightest” of policy analysts to research and write NBBP. He neither relied on outside experts alone nor eschewed career professionals.  Instead he blended a team of thoughtful go-getters such as Pew’s John Horrigan, with leading thinkers at several agencies, a “best and brightest” approach that paid dividends.

2. Process Matters. The NBBP planning efforts were highly inclusive, hearing from all sides of most issues and inviting every sector to participate. No ideological or political litmus tests applied, maximizing ideas and enthusiasm. Concurrently NBBP was highly transparent, minimizing suspicions or criticisms of the ultimate product (lessons from the failed-and-far-less-transparent 1993 “HillaryCare” and 2001 “Cheney Energy Policy”).

3. Policy Matters. Even the best process and smartest people would not have counted if they failed to ask the right questions and offer the right answers. In this case, they did both, highlighting the critical need for more spectrum for broadband services, for example, along with creative methods for finding it. NBBP likewise helped illuminate the need for and value of driving fiber deeper into networks, urging an “if you build it they will come” approach that has largely matched reality. And NBBP supplied vision of a broadband-enabled world for those many policy makers less familiar with the end-game opportunities.

4. Politics Matters. In this case, avoiding the unnecessary political morass named Net Neutrality. To have observed the President on the campaign trail, one might have concluded that the #1 broadband issue was Net Neutrality and preventing some nefarious monopolists from hijacking the “People’s Internet.” To its great credit, the NBBP recognized the difference between serious policy questions and partisan political hype in search of marketplace realities and assiduously avoided the issue. (Officially, these political appointees deferred to the FCC that wanted to take the issue head on… yet while the FCC spent a year stuck in the political mud, the NBBP charged forward). In reality the NBBP planners understood that the light-tough regulatory approach identified by President Clinton and maintained by President Bush paid extraordinary dividends, as we saw in a roaring broadband economy. Recent decisions to roll back those long-standing policies are a gamble at best, and an unnecessary one. Broadband and especially wireless has thrived in a light-touch regulatory framework, but we’ve just plucked a whole bunch of feathers from the golden goose. Maybe it won’t impact egg production, but maybe it will. Time will tell.

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.

Monday, March 30

5 Concerns From Title II

By Brad

1. The courts
2. Congress
3. A new president
4. The budget
5. Deadlock

These are the five perils Julian Hattem of The Hill recently highlighted as potential pitfalls for the FCC’s new net neutrality rules. Hattern’s full piece is required reading for anyone concerned about the future of the Internet, since it casts a light on sheer amount of uncertainty the rules are already causing.

An excerpt about the threat of deadlock from the piece, featuring our own Honorary Chairman Rick Boucher:

For now, given the FCC’s current makeup of three Democrats and two Republicans, any company asking for exemptions to the net neutrality rules is likely to be rejected.

But if that should happen to change — for instance, if a Democratic president is unable to move his or her nominees through a GOP-controlled Senate after the current commissioners’ term expire — the agency could be stuck in a 2-2 deadlock, which would automatically grant an exemption, known as forbearance.

“It’s not too far out there,” former Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.), who helped write the 1996 law undergirding the FCC’s authority, recently told The Hill.

“In that circumstance, if a forbearance petition is filed and they don’t act on it, it could be deemed granted.”

Wednesday, March 25

Boucher on Congressional Action

By Brad

In the wake of the FCC’s controversial decision to regulate broadband services under Title II, our Honorary Chairman Rick Boucher spoke with Jim Puzzanghera at the Los Angeles Times about the possibility of Congress formally enshrining net neutrality into law. An excerpt:

Rick Boucher knows as well as anybody that net neutrality is the type of complex technology topic that Congress finds difficult to handle even when Democrats and Republicans are getting along.

But the former 14-term House member, a longtime player on Internet policy who now heads a telecommunications industry trade group, is optimistic that the controversial Internet issue could be a surprising source of compromise in a time of partisan gridlock.

“Each side can give the other the thing it wants the most,” Boucher, a well-respected Democrat who is honorary chairman of the Internet Innovation Alliance. “This is an optimal moment to legislate.”

Check out Puzzanghera’s full piece over at the Los Angeles Times.

Monday, March 23

Downes on the National Broadband Plan

By Brad

At the Washington Post, Larry Downes has penned a piece highlighting a recent Georgetown Center for Business and Public Policy event commemorating the fifth anniversary of the National Broadband Plan. Headlined “Did the National Broadband Plan spur innovation?” the full piece is definitely worth checking out. An excerpt:

For the next five years, we need a significant policy reset to meet both the challenges and opportunities of the broadband revolution. Or rather, as I’ve argued before, a return to the bipartisan “light touch” policy embraced in the early years of the Internet revolution, in which regulators largely left broadband governance to the multi-stakeholder engineering-driven process that created the technology in the first place.

As the broadband revolution spreads its disruption farther from traditional computing, communications and consumer electronics industries, innovators need a kind of Hippocratic Oath from policymakers of all political persuasions. When considering regulatory intervention in quickly-evolving markets and technologies, our overriding public policy should be “first, do no harm.”

But given the alarming rise in heavy-handed interventions from state and local regulators, as well as a growing list of federal agencies including the FAA, FDA, FTC, SEC and the FCC itself, the prospects for a return to more rational policies — the kind that encouraged the broadband revolution to achieve the remarkable progress we have already witnessed — seem dim, at least for now.

The seeds for the National Broadband Plan were sown in the early days of the Obama administration.  Perhaps the next president will call for a second plan that will build on the successes of the first.  And learn from its misfires.

Wednesday, March 18

Checking in on the National Broadband Plan

By Brad

This week marks the five year anniversary of “Connecting America,” the FCC’s National Broadband Plan to improve Internet access in the United States. One of the many important goals set forth in the plan is commonly referred to as the “100 Squared Initiative”:

At least 100 million U.S. homes should have affordable access to actual download speeds of at least 100 megabits per second and actual upload speeds of at least 50 megabits per second.——- commonly referred to as the “100 Squared Initiative.”

That seemed like a doable — if lofty — goal back in 2010, but since Internet providers had already sextupled the number of people with >100 Mbps high-speed broadband by December 31, 2013 (the most recent numbers from the National Broadband Map), we thought it would be worth highlighting the progress.

That’s a pretty good leap in the three years that have been measured, but if the FCC is going to hit its goal by 2020, regulatory roadblocks to deployment and the billions in private investment needed to make it happen should be avoided.

For more on National Broadband Plan progress, check out the event being held by the Georgetown Center for Business and Public Policy today beginning at 9 am (EDT). Our own Bruce Mehlman will be participating in a discussion called “The Agenda Ahead” at 3:15 pm. Details on the event—“The National Broadband Plan: Looking Back, Reaching Forward”—can be found here.

Monday, March 16

The Hidden Problems of Title II

By Brad

In the wake of the FCC officially implementing Title II regulations on broadband providers, the organization Tech Freedom put together this handy infographic highlighting the problem with the Commission leaning on forbearance.

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