In a must-read op-ed for the Washington Post, Karen Kerrigan, president and chief executive of the Small Business & Entrepreneurship warns that net neutrality regulations would “smother a growing sector”:
Net neutrality rules would give the FCC new powers to micromanage the operations and pricing and service levels of the privately owned and financed broadband networks that are the physical heart of the Internet. This is a strategy for chasing away the billions of dollars that broadband network operators (principally the telecom and cable companies) plan to invest in broadband infrastructure and new technology.
Thankfully, a bipartisan majority in Congress believes it’s a terrible idea to let three unelected FCC officials decide the fate of America’s broadband networks and jeopardize jobs and economic recovery in the process. With the national unemployment rate at 9.6 percent and an economy that remains fragile, let’s hope Congress reengages in this debate to keep net neutrality regulations as far from small business as possible.
With the Republican party poised to make substantial gains in Congress tomorrow, Kim Hart of Politico reports that FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski is already feeling bipartisan:
Despite the prospect of a split Congress next year, Genachowski is confident lawmakers will reach a consensus on many key telecom issues, including freeing up more airwaves for wireless services and reforming an $8 billion fund to expand broadband in rural regions.
Bipartisan bills on both topics have already been introduced and the FCC chief said he believes momentum will continue to use both as avenues to expand high-speed Internet access throughout the country.
“These are issues that are strategic for our country, affecting global competitiveness and consumer choice,” Genachowski told POLITICO Editor-in-Chief John F. Harris at the Wireless Education Technology Conference in Washington. “We’ll continue to focus on the opportunities for the country around broadband and doing everything we can so that broadband and technology keep leading the country out of the economic crisis we’re in.”
Whether bipartisan agreement can be found on the thorniest tech issue — net neutrality/Title II — remains to be seen, but it’s encouraging to see Chairman Genachowski is already reaching out.
The pledge reads as follows: “I believe in protecting Net Neutrality - the First Amendment of the Internet. The open Internet is a vital engine for free speech, economic opportunity, and civic participation in the 21st century. I stand with millions of working families and small businesses against any attempt by big corporations to control the Internet and eliminate the Internet’s level playing field. In Congress, I’ll fight to protect Net Neutrality for the entire Internet - wired and wireless - and make sure big corporations aren’t allowed to take control of free speech online. Mark me down as a 21st century Internet champion!”
News of the pledge, which came from a liberal PAC called the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, inspired this response from IIA members Americans for Tax Reform:
We count one – that’s right, one – of the ninety-five signers of the pro-regulation Pledge who is actually leading in the polls heading into Tuesday’s election, according to Real Clear Politics and Cook Political Report. The issue of Net Neutrality is so far left that no one wants to campaign on it and those who are pushing it aren’t even viewed as acceptable candidates. This makes sense, since the most recent poll found that 75 percent of Americans think the Internet is “working well” and 55 percent were opposed to regulating it. Perhaps this is why over 300 Members of Congress - a vast bipartisan majority - have opposed the FCC’s Title II Internet regulations.
After the collapse of the Waxman net neutrality bill, some believed legislation that would finally settle the longstanding tech debate could be passed during the lame duck session. But as Darren Samuelsohn and Tony Romm of Politico report, that prospect is looking less and less likely:
Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) told POLITICO on Wednesday that Republicans would have little incentive to support a temporary compromise that even telecom giants like AT&T and Verizon seemed to support.
“Knowing we’ll have a much stronger hand come January, there’s no reason for us to compromise or save someone’s bacon,” he said in an interview.
Upton’s position should not come as a surprise to most Democrats. He has long opposed net neutrality regulations and was not a supporter of the proposal current committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) floated last month.
Rep. Upton is expected to be the next chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee should Republicans take control of the House next week as expected.
Via Multichannel News, current FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski and former Chair Michael Powell are scheduled to sit down to discuss all things broadband at a Rainbow/PUSH symposium “A More Perfect Union: Broad-Banding Together” this Friday in Washington DC. Sure to be on the docket: net neutrality, which Chairman Powell has long been against.
Among the panelists also scheduled to be taking part in the symposium is our very own Co-Chair David Sutphen.
In an op-ed for Politico, Douglas Holtz-Eakin and Sam Batkins from the American Action Forum, warn that pursuing net neutrality could have a drastic effect on the one thing America desperately needs right now — jobs:
Many now predict that “net neutrality” — a Washington power grab that seeks to dictate how private telecoms prioritize use of limited bandwidth — is walking the Green Mile. As Congress scurried to finish its legislative business before returning to the campaign trail, the compromise net neutrality legislation, crafted by House Energy and Commerce Committee chairman Henry Waxman D-Calif.), died in committee.
But its death gives the Federal Communications Commission another chance to regulate the bandwidth decisions of private companies.
This could spell death to the thousands of jobs created each year by the billions of dollars private telecoms spend on infrastructure. Imposing net neutrality could reduce broadband expansion and cost the U.S. economy upwards of 300,000 jobs, according to a new Phoenix Center study. Just a 10 percent decline in IT infrastructure investment, Brett Swanson of Entropy Economics found, could eliminate 502,000 jobs and $62 billion in gross domestic product growth. This is a price that the U.S. economy cannot afford.
At the National Journal, David Hatch reports that FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski may be considering a new direction for proposed regulations on broadband providers:
There has been chatter, however, over what could be called a “Fourth Way,” a face-saving option that Genachowski could pursue even if the GOP retakes one or both chambers. Under this alternative, the FCC would find a workaround to wield its broadband authority under Title I. To give Congress a chance to weigh in, the commission could either implement the new rules on a delayed basis or write them to sunset in two years.
“The industry would view favorably an interim approach limited in time under Title I,” said Walter McCormick, president and CEO of the U.S. Telecom Association. “Such a commission approach would be legally supportable,” he insisted.
According to the story, Commissioner Mignon Clyburn — a strong supporter for regulating providers under Title II — is open to this idea, while Commissioner Michael Copps is not.
Recently, Cablevision and the FOX Network have been duking it out over “carriage rates,” and as a result of the fight, FOX has blocked all of its content from the cable provider’s customers.
These types of disputes aren’t rare, but in this case, FOX took an extra step and blocked all of its content from Cablevision customers trying to access it on the online video site Hulu (of which FOX is part owner). The move has garnered the attention of the FCC, and as Farhad Manjoo of Slate writes, it also highlights just how murky the entire net neutrality debate really is:
For a host of legal and economic reasons, we haven’t traditionally regulated content companies—a category that includes not just studios like Fox but also record labels, newspapers, and Web sites like Google and Facebook (not to mention Slate) . In general, content creators are allowed to distribute their products however they want—it would be absurd for the government to force the Washington Post to sell its paper on newsstands in Boston, say, or for the Feds to require the Beatles to offer their music on the iTunes store.
Online media outlets already impose a host of restrictions on who can get what, when. If you live outside of the United States, you can’t get Hulu. If you live in the United States, you can’t get Spotify. The novel thing about Fox’s Hulu block was that it was aimed at a particular ISP, not a whole country. But what’s wrong with that? Fox’s entire corporate mission, after all, consists of selling content to people who pay for it. Shouldn’t it have the right to block its shows from a set of customers it believes aren’t paying enough?
All of this suggests a blind spot in the neutrality debate. Activists worry that if broadband companies begin charging content companies for access to Internet lines, only big, established sites with deep pockets will be able to afford a place online. But the Fox incident suggests that we should probably be just as concerned about the opposite problem—that content companies might start charging broadband companies to access their content. This would turn the Internet into something like cable TV—your ISP would carry, say, Hulu so long as it paid the site’s owners a carriage fee. The cost of those fees, of course, would be passed along to every one of the ISP’s subscribers, whether they watch Hulu or not.
In his latest column for Fierce Telecom, our Co-Chair David Sutphen encourages Congress to pick up where Rep. Waxman left off with his net neutrality bill:
Although the Waxman bill did not arrive at its intended destination—the House floor—the progress made proves that a compromise for what seemed to be a deadlock debate can be reached. Congress should take action on Title II, as it’s now clear that a legislative solution is possible and consensus exists.
Both the FCC decision and Waxman effort bring us closer to meeting the objectives set forth by the National Broadband Plan. Freeing up white spaces paves the way for “super WiFi,” which will likely help extend wireless broadband access to unserved and underserved people in rural and urban communities. It also gives entrepreneurs and engineers room to run. Waxman’s bill showed that, collectively, we can settle the net neutrality debate and move on to goals that mean something to every American, such as job creation and affordable access to broadband. Now is not the time to wipe the slate clean and revert to calls for Title II; now is the time for Congress to pick up where Waxman left off.
In an op-ed for the Huffington Post, Julius H. Hollis, CEO of the Alliance for Digital Equality warns that heavy-handed regulations in the wireless arena could only make the digital divide worse:
ADE… is concerned with potential government overreach in the wireless space. This area of contention is of particular interest due to the increased use of wireless technologies in minority communities in the last few years. Thanks to wireless devices more low income families can access the resources of the Internet without the use of a home computer and minority Americans are leading the country in using wireless devices to access the Internet. This progress is encouraging, but there is still much work to do on the road toward recovery. On the issue of wireless, I hope our policymakers will tread cautiously as we must not derail the astounding progress made by imposing antiquated regulations and must protect the tremendous opportunity that exists in this space.
An alternative path forward - and the path that we at ADE strongly support - is action from Congress. Not long ago California Congressman Henry Waxman proposed a common sense and balanced approach to Internet policy. While his legislation has stalled for the time being, his efforts demonstrate a willingness within Congress to take action. When recently speaking on net neutrality, Congressman Waxman said he would “not close the door on moving legislation this Congress,” also noting that “cooler heads may prevail after the elections.” This statement is an optimistic sign, especially as some groups outside the mainstream continue to lobby for stringent regulations without the support of the public or our elected officials.
Hal Singer, Managing Director at Navigant Economics and an adjunct professor at the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University, discusses how Title II regulations on broadband could have a negative effect on investment.
At Politico, Kim Hart and Jennifer Martinez have penned a comprehensive article on the current state of the net neutrality debate in the wake of the collapse of Rep. Waxman’s bill:
Waxman said he would “not close the door on moving legislation this Congress” on Net neutrality, adding that “cooler heads may prevail after the elections.”
Cooler heads being a rare commodity in Washington these days, there’s no guarantee the politics will be less tricky after Nov. 2. If Democrats retain control of the House, Republicans may be willing to revisit the proposal, sources say. But if Republicans gain control of the House, they’ll probably want to come up with their own set of ground rules.
“There’s still a chance the Waxman effort could get reviewed in the lame-duck period in a way that still might attract some bipartisan support,” said Paul Gallant, telecom analyst at Concept Capital’s Washington Research Group. “It’s highly unlikely a bill would actually pass, but getting it introduced would be a good place holder that Congress is finding some common ground on this very divisive issue.”
Statements from our Co-Chairs David Sutphen and Bruce Mehlman regarding the FCC’s “Open Internet” inquiry on mobile wireless services and “specialized” services:
Unlike burdensome and unnecessary Title II regulations, allowing specialized services can benefit consumers, investors and innovators. Enhancing quality of service (QoS) or enabling the connection of devices like wireless smart meters and health monitors will complement the open Internet, enhancing its speed and quality by channeling traffic with special needs.
— David Sutphen
We must take care that the near theological debate over ‘net neutrality’ not detract from a collective focus on expanding the Internet’s reach and utility. The Commission should abandon its ambitions to regulate wireless services, as new rules on mobile platforms are unnecessary at this time and could undermine investment, innovation and adoption in the most thriving and successful corner of the broadband ecosystem.
If achieving universal broadband access and adoption is the primary objective, the FCC should carefully consider the impact new regulations would have on the future expansion of network infrastructure. Allowing business model flexibility – both by allowing ‘managed’ services and keeping the wireless space unfettered – is key to encouraging the investment needed to connect every American with the benefits of high-speed Internet.
Former FCC Chairmen Michael Powell, Reed Hunt, and Kevin Martin recently sat down for an interview with CSPAN to discuss telecom policy and the government’s role in promoting innovation and investment while protecting consumers. Check out the video.
At The Hill, Sara Jerome highlights a particular moment:
Powell said Genachowski should make his net-neutrality stance clear.
“We need to see you; we need to see you go out there and invest yourself and make clear to all the players what are your bottom lines and what are the kind things you’ll accept and not accept and really help drive this crazy plane and get it landed,” he said. “I don’t think you can hope it gets resolved on its own.”
At the National Press Club in Washington D.C. today, the National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators (NHCSL) released its first whitepaper. Titled “Expanding Opportunities in the Hispanic Community: Solutions for Increased Broadband Access,” it offers advice on closing the digital divide and warns that current regulatory issues and debates could threaten the important goals put forward in the FCC’s National Broadband Plan.
From the whitepaper:
Increased adoption in communities of color will occur through increased investment in infrastructure and new technology, and through innovation in business models that address the needs of minority-owned businesses and price-sensitive consumers. An environment that fosters competition and innovation will help bridge the digital technology gap and create new opportunities for growth and expansion of social and financial goals within the Hispanic community. Conversely, net neutrality rules disincentivize private investment. The FCC, through the National Broadband Plan, has taken a step in the right direction. On its face, net neutrality rules that disincentivize private investment would contradict the goals set forth in the NBP. Not only do these regulatory principles take away the focus from solving the real broadband implementation issues in Hispanic communities, but they deter private investment in next generation technology that would increase competition and allow for greater broadband consumption by families that need it most. To wit, only 47% of Hispanics access broadband at home, according to the FCC. Policies must facilitate public and private investment that furthers the goal of full Hispanic adoption.
Over the weekend, the Washington Post published a long, interesting profile of FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski penned by Cecilia Kang. Here’s a taste:
Genachowski’s office is pristine, with lush eggshell couches and a large glass candy bowl full of USB-port keychains containing agency data for guests.
On a recent day, Genachowski was preparing for a trip to the Computer Museum in Silicon Valley to deliver a speech on allowing schools and libraries to lease unused fiber lines for cheap Internet access.
“I get really excited imagining what we can do in the future with broadband,” he said. That order was approved last week, but it is unclear how schools and libraries would tap those fiber connections and who would administer auctions to supply services. Those kinds of details could turn Genachowski’s ambition into mush, public interest groups and carriers say.
Few people say they know the FCC chairman well. He rarely veers off message and keeps his thinking close to the vest, say executives, lobbyists and FCC staffers who interact with him. Senior staff steeped with technology policy knowledge have recently left.
And some industry insiders who declined to speak on the record to protect their ongoing relationship with the chairman, said Genachowski doesn’t get deeply into the details of telecom policy.
At Tech Daily Dose, Eliza Krigman surveys the terrain after Rep. Waxman’s net neutrality bill failed to gain traction:
With the collapse of efforts to forge a House network neutrality bill Wednesday and Congress in recess until after the election, stakeholders are working hard to spin the outcome in terms that favor their position. The legislation at hand would have codified some principles aiming to protect the openness of the Internet.
Much of the rhetorical battle will come down to interpretation of the House Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman’s statement conceding his inability to gain bipartisan support for the measure and thus, move forward.
“The Waxman bill shows that a compromise to create jobs, preserve investment and protect consumers is a realistic goal,” IIA co-chairman David Sutphen said. “Forging ahead with Title II reclassification is an unnecessary answer to a complex debate that has been unfolding for months.”
Statements from IIA Co-Chairmen David Sutphen and Bruce Mehlman on calls for FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski to hastily act on Title II reclassification after the near-success of House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman’s (D-Calif.) open Internet bill. — IIA
Having found common ground amongst consumer groups, major telecommunications and cable providers, trade associations and advocacy organizations, the Waxman bill shows that a compromise to create jobs, preserve investment and protect consumers is a realistic goal. The FCC should not wipe the slate clean and abandon the progress that has been made.
Forging ahead with Title II reclassification is an unnecessary answer to a complex debate that has been unfolding for months. By killing the investment needed to realize universal broadband, this approach would undermine the main reason the National Broadband Plan was developed: to connect Americans who need it most, like communities of color, rural Americans and other unserved and underserved populations.
— David Sutphen
We can collectively move past the gridlock of the net neutrality debate in order to focus on goals that mean something to every American such as job creation and affordable access to broadband. Let’s not force a fix that would be harmful to so many.
With our nation’s need for broadband infrastructure build-out and economic recovery, encouraging investment is the best thing that lawmakers can do to safeguard jobs and ensure universal access. We don’t need policies that are the “next best thing;” we need to take the time to get it right.
The House Net Neutrality bill being spearheaded by Rep. Henry Waxman is, by all reports, dead. Cause of death: A lack of GOP support. Reports Amy Schatz of the Wall Street Journal:
Henry Waxman (D., Calif.), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, failed Wednesday to win support for a proposal that would given the FCC limited power to regulate broadband traffic. Republicans on Mr. Waxman’s committee declined to support his proposal, which was opposed for different reasons by some members of his own party.
The proposal would have given the FCC case-by-case authority to enforce net neutrality rules, which say Internet providers cannot selectively block or slow Web traffic. It would also have provided some net neutrality protections on wireless Internet networks and given the FCC additional authority to protect consumers. It would have barred the FCC from trying to re-regulate Internet lines under rules written for old phone networks.
With hope of a compromise dimming, Rep. Waxman yesterday urged the FCC to move forward with Title II reclassification, something the Commission could do in late November at the earliest. In the meantime, both sides of the seemingly endless net neutrality debate will likely be gearing up for battle.
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