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.

Press Room


IP Transition: FCC Should Not Import Monopoly Rules for a Competitive Future

by Bruce Mehlman

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.”

After investing billions of dollars in deploying new 21st-century communications networks, companies like Verizon and AT&T would, under the Chairman’s proposal, be required to share those new facilities with competitors whose business models have been based on “rent-seeking,” or ongoing access to the copper-based networks that others built. The prices, terms and conditions offered to competitors on antiquated copper-based networks would seep into the future and apply to high-cost, newly built next-generation networks.

Such action would reverse course on over a decade of FCC policies designed to promote new investment in fiber and IP-based infrastructure and limit government-mandated, price-regulated facilities sharing to legacy copper networks.

Even worse, the FCC also appears ready to give veto power to certain carriers over whether those who have invested in the future can discontinue supporting the networks of the past. The proposal would give competitive carriers, not actual retail customers, the power to determine whether retail users are “negatively impacted.” Thus, those sharing the facilities of others would dictate whether their supplier must keep offering services – services business customers may not even want – at a discount for as long as they wish. Having government preserve your business model at the expense of your competitors is a great deal if you can get it.

Moreover, the FCC describes all this as an “interim measure,” pending the completion of its special access proceeding. But that proceeding has dragged on for more than a decade. In fact, the Commission’s inaction is evident given that they are still seeking comment on the same issues when this proceeding began.

In Washington, when entities have an interest at stake, “interim measures” have a way of becoming the new reality. After all, the “temporary” telephone tax enacted to fund the Spanish-American War in 1898 only came to an end in 2006.

And it’s all so unnecessary. While policymakers should have the data necessary to determine whether markets are competitive, certain interested parties shouldn’t jeopardize investment and the public good through inordinate delay. It begs the question as to what motives are in play? Are they afraid that the data would show robust competition in the enterprise market and no underlying support to continue their special deal? Imposing unrelated special access requirements in the FCC’s upcoming Order addressing the telephone system transition would award delay tactics – and harm consumers, businesses, and network operators.

Why? Because consumers, businesses, and network operators all have an interest in moving to a faster, more modern system as soon as possible. Special access services that network operators are forced to offer fail to qualify for the FCC’s old definition of broadband, much less its recently defined new standard of 25 Mbps. Why would businesses want an older system to reach their customers?

This is all pretty complicated for non-experts, but the bottom line is that some “competitive” carriers are trying to get access for their old T1 technology forced on to the telephone system of the future. Yet, if we’re trying to get to the future faster, shouldn’t we encourage investment in the technologies of the future rather than in those of the past?

There’s no horse-and-buggy lane on the Interstate, and there’s simply no reason to force network providers who are building the networks of tomorrow to bear the burden of outmoded business models from their supposed “competitors.” Instead of managed competition, it’s time for everyone who wants to compete in the telephone system of the future to invest in new technologies rather than in trying to convince the government to hold on to the past.

Reproduced with permission from Telecommunications Law Resource Center, Vol. 2015, (July 27, 2015). Copyright 2015, The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. (800-372-1033) Download a PDF of this article.

Posted by admin on 07/27 at 08:34 AM

Congress should pass an open-Internet law NOW

by Jamal Simmons

While most political insiders are focused on fund-raising numbers, staffing announcements and what fast food candidates eat in Iowa and New Hampshire, there are real issues at stake this year.

Foreign policy, health care and income inequality are sure to be on the docket, but one issue not being discussed is the future of the open Internet and the rules the Federal Communications Commission is adopting.

Although the “net neutrality” debate seemed settled by the recent FCC vote to apply Title II utility-style regulation to broadband, these rules could be overturned in court or changed by a simple majority of commissioners appointed to the FCC by the next president. The only way to lock in the rules consumers and businesses want is to pass legislation that can’t be changed easily by the next presidential election. Rand Paul is looking to overturn the recent FCC action with proposed legislation before the primary votes are cast.

Passing legislation feels like it would be a big lift. Democrats and Republicans are barely able to agree on the current day of the week, but the uncertainty of the political process might provide the leverage required to pass an open Internet bill. It could be the kind of compromise that Congress used to do more regularly and the kind we elect our representatives to make. Members of Congress who seek to protect consumers can make permanent in law prohibitions against slowing or throttling Internet speeds or creating fast lanes on the Internet (both of which were contained in the FCC’s previous 2010 rules), while members focused more on innovation and economic growth can embrace the legislation’s Internet protections that would not rely on imposing public utility regulation on the vibrant and growing broadband industry.

Public utility-like Title II rules, meant to regulate monopoly telephone service, could hamper innovation and flexibility in the most dynamic sector of the American economy. Currently, the FCC has promised to not apply many of these onerous rules; however, doing so is politically tricky and subject to legal challenge. A new statute would allow Congress to sidestep this troublesome issue and instead create a framework that advances today’s broadband Internet and promotes cross-platform competition.

So as competing interests align, a new statute can be a realistic possibility. It just takes political will and goodwill from both sides of the aisle. But Congress will need to hear from the people. 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.

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Posted by admin on 05/15 at 12:33 PM

Increased Competition in Special Access Proves Markets Work

Remember special access? Last year, there was a big kerfuffle over the question of whether network operators could be forced to pay for maintaining two separate networks, one operating at higher speeds that consumers and businesses wanted to use, and one operating at much slower speeds using old copper-based technology that few people wanted. One of the rationales for asking broadband providers to pay twice was that it supposedly helped competition by making the Competitive Local Exchange Carriers (CLECs) better able to compete with the large network operators by leasing lines from incumbent telephone operators at wholesale rates.

There were (and are) many reasons to oppose special access rules. For one thing, it slows deployment of faster technologies to everyone as the network operators have to devote limited resources to building out and maintaining two systems. Second, it delays the transition to an all Internet Protocol (IP)-based communications system. This makes bad policy sense. Businesses today want Ethernet data, not copper-based, TDM data. And there’s generally no reason to subsidize one industry’s business model once that business model becomes uneconomic.

But the best reason of all to oppose special access regulation is that it interferes with the normal workings of the vibrant market and innovation in telecommunications. If there is demand for a product, the market will address that demand; if there is no demand, the market will move on. Horse carriage parts, like TDM (special access) equipment, are hard to find in a world of cars and broadband connections. Put it another way: once the tin can was invented, there would be a market for can openers – innovation begets innovation. See iPhone and App Economy. Cut off innovation in one area, and it suffers in others. 

The best proof that telecom markets can work if we will just let them is what’s happening in the special access market right now. A recent article in FierceTelecom observed that cable is entering the special access market, claiming that “[t]he presence of cable operators could potentially shake up the wholesale special access space where incumbent telcos . . . have enjoyed a monopoly position for decades.”

Why cable? Many cable operators are building out fiber and/or hybrid fiber/coax (HFC) systems to serve existing customers, particularly businesses, and so entry into the special access market is a natural extension of their current business model, which includes aggressive efforts to attract small business and teleworkers – natural, healthy competition at work. They probably won’t be able to compete for the largest customers at first, but for small and mid-size businesses, cable could be a good choice. As the article remarked, “[h]aving a set of HFC-based options, including Ethernet over HFC, means that a cable operator could address perhaps lower speed needs between 2-10 Mbps.” That may be plenty for small businesses looking for reliable broadband connections but for whom the fastest speeds are not critical to business success – basically the heart of the CLEC market.

All this raises another point: in a smooth functioning market, there will be many providers offering a variety of options, including different options based on speed. Not everyone wants to pay for the fastest speeds available. Though inconsistent with the Washington narrative of regulate-to-prevent-“inequality”, as we’re seeing in health care and some tax proposals, in the real world consumers and businesses prefer to choose what’s best for them.

So with cable joining the fray, incumbent telcos are now facing greater competition in special access, just as one would predict in a market that is working well – something for regulators to remember the next time competitors come knocking on their door seeking government intervention and stricter regulations as a means to help subsidize their business model. Markets work, if we will just let them.

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Posted by admin on 04/20 at 11:19 AM

Legislative thaw on net neutrality

by former Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.)

Legislative windows of opportunity rarely open, where the issues are few and crystallized, where Democrats and Republicans have roughly equal leverage, and where each party has the power to grant the other’s most important priority.

With the Federal Communications Commission’s recent release of its Open Internet Order, which details its decision to reclassify broadband as a public utility Title II telecommunications service, that rare moment has arrived.

The FCC’s recent decision gives Democrats leverage they have previously lacked to pass legislation giving statutory permanence to strong network neutrality principles. Since the first days of the network neutrality debate a decade ago, Republicans in Congress have consistently and successfully resisted net neutrality legislation. Now, however, Republican leaders of the House and Senate Commerce committees have circulated draft bills offering to Democrats the very net neutrality guarantees Democrats have long sought.

In return, Republicans seek to continue the light-touch regulatory framework that broadband has enjoyed for the past decade, which has spurred American investment and innovation to produce an Internet ecosystem defined by the most capable networks and most innovative content that are the envy of the world. To achieve that goal, however, they’ll need Democratic support to clear that provision through both houses and obtain a presidential signature.

But why, 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.

The current administration enjoys a 3-2 Democratic voting majority on the FCC. Yet, in a Republican administration, that majority would flip to the Republicans. Given the highly partisan nature of the net neutrality issue, it’s safe to assume that a top priority for a Republican FCC would be to reverse the Title II decision and re-establish broadband as a lightly regulated information service. Moreover, little assurance exists that a Republican FCC would show any interest in starting a new proceeding to protect net neutrality if a court invalidates the FCC’s recent net neutrality decision, or a Republican FCC on its own once again declares broadband to be a lightly regulated information service.

Early polling indicates we may have another close presidential race in 2016. Assuming, hypothetically, that Republicans have a 50-50 shot at winning the White House, we then face the stark reality of a 50 percent probability — in the absence of adopting net neutrality legislation — that the net neutrality guarantees of the FCC’s Title II decision will be swept away as early as 2017.

The current Republican invitation to craft legislation offers Democrats a unique opportunity to achieve the nearly decade-long quest for net neutrality guarantees protected by statutory permanence.

The Republican legislative draft contains provisions objectionable to Democrats that are not needed either to assure statutory permanence for net neutrality or to maintain broadband as a lightly regulated information service. Republicans should be willing to eliminate these extraneous and unnecessary provisions, in order to reach agreement and meet the priority needs of both political parties.

Based on my over 30 years of experience in Washington, such moments are rare, and there is usually a short period when the leverage both parties hold can be effectively exercised. With the passage of time, leverage is lost and opportunity vanishes. But, perhaps with the beginning of spring will come a net neutrality thaw that at long last will put to rest the most contentious communications policy debate of the 21st century.

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Posted by admin on 04/08 at 07:48 AM

The Next Role for Virginians in Promoting Internet Growth

by Rick Boucher

Virginia and Virginians have a special role in the history of the Internet and a special concern for its flourishing. You can have a “Virginia Internet C@pital” license plate on your car; last year, the Washington Post suggested that Ashburn, VA was “the center of the Internet”, with 70% of the world’s Internet data passing through it and 5,000,000 square feet of data centers in Loudoun County alone. Silicon Valley may be more famous, but without Virginia, the backbone of the Internet would simply not exist.

It helped to have the Pentagon and the defense industries, but none of this happened by accident. Virginia fostered an entrepreneurial business and technology community that led to the many start-ups that bring jobs and innovation to the world from their Virginia hubs.

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.

It is not shocking that some original proponents of “Title II” public utility regulation, such as Netflix, now believe that the regulations may have gone too far. After all, the continued growth of broadband, which Title II regulations threaten, is essential to the business growth of companies like Netflix.

We can all agree that preserving and maintaining an Open Internet is vital to the nation’s and Virginia’s economy, but there is a far better way to protect network neutrality principles than reverting to regulations designed for the era of rotary phones.

Fortunately, Washington decision makers can take an alternative path. In 2010, the FCC proposed an earlier version of net neutrality regulations which, after years of litigation, were invalidated in court for lack of statutory authority to put them in place. Efforts in Congress are now underway to codify the FCC’s 2010 net neutrality principles, return to light-touch regulation of the Internet and create legal permanence on how it should be governed for the future.

It’s my hope that this legislative effort will be the basis for a bipartisan solution in favor of preserving both Internet openness and the light touch regulation that under different Administrations has promoted the exponential growth of the Internet ecosystem by letting entrepreneurs do what they do best. Virginia and Virginians need to take the lead in promoting this solution, for the sake of an industry that has come to define our “New Dominion.”

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Posted by admin on 04/02 at 07:44 AM

It’s Throwback Thursday for the FCC with net neutrality

by Larry Irving

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) this week embarked on its own Throwback Thursday with the release of its Open Internet Order. A 20-year bipartisan philosophy of regulatory restraint for the Internet changed when the FCC voted to transform the Internet from a model of global entrepreneurial innovation and advancement to a utility governed under a 19th-century regulatory model. The newly available rules usher in a new era of government involvement in the evolution of the Internet here in America and, perhaps more importantly, in countries around the planet.

Since the inception of the Internet, the U.S. government, under both Republican and Democratic administrations, has fought for regulatory restraint with regard to the Internet. I had the honor of serving as a policy adviser in the earliest days of the Clinton administration’s development of Internet policy and I am confident that our forceful advocacy of limited government regulation of the Internet and related technologies helped foster the explosive growth of the Internet globally over the past two decades.

Proponents of utility-style regulation of the Internet believe that it is the only way to ensure net neutrality or an open Internet. They fear that, without government intervention, Internet service providers such as cable or telecommunications companies will block new entrants or competitors.

Unfortunately, most of today’s proponents of a utility model for the Internet either have forgotten or never knew the genesis of the regulatory-restraint model that helped spur and continues to support Internet expansion.

They fail to realize that the global Internet was not inevitable. In the early days of the Internet, policymakers from developed countries fought for regulation of the Internet to protect incumbent national champion telecommunications providers, and developing economies saw the Internet as a means of America asserting economic and cultural hegemony or dominance. We had the task of explaining the importance of the then-emerging Internet and its potential for transforming economies and nations. We were addressing a skeptical world.

In 1993 when I joined the Clinton administration, only 2 million people were on the Internet. More than half the world’s population had no access to a telephone. Half the planet had to walk an hour or more to the nearest telephone. Mobile telephony was in its infancy.

Telecommunications service generally was provided by state owned and controlled monopolies. Governments in developing countries saw telecommunications services as a source of foreign capital and political control.

Under the leadership of President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore, the U.S. argued forcefully, consistently and passionately for a transformation of telecommunications and technology policy. We suggested countries that wanted to enter the Internet age should:

• Seek to increase private investment

• Promote competition

• Provide open access to emerging networks

• Ensure universal service

• Create a flexible regulatory environment that minimized regulation and would foster competition.

Most nations, and particularly their regulators and policymakers, had no experience with the Internet in the early to mid-1990s. Those officials were used to a command-and-control, top-down utility form of regulation of communications networks. We argued that new networks required new thinking and a new approach, but not necessarily new or more rules. The unmistakable economic benefits of and consumer demand for the Internet helped us to persuade regulators not to regulate the Internet under then existing models.

By any measure, the Internet has transformed the world. We are witnesses to a two-decadelong experiment that has resulted in one of the greatest technological revolutions in history. We have seen an explosion in connectivity and the democratization of communications. Today, more than 3 billion people access the Internet. Internet-based telephony has reduced telephone costs dramatically. Globally, there are more than seven billion mobile telephone subscriptions. The cost of computing, telephony and Internet access has fallen dramatically.

In recent years, we have seen renewed efforts internationally to constrain the Internet, to increase government control of communications, to censor content and to impose institutional controls on the Internet. For 20 years, the U.S. could argue forcefully that we did not regulate the Internet in our country and that regulation of the Internet was not only not needed but bad policy. That has changed with the newly released rules soon heading to the Federal Register, and it will change the debate globally.

The U.S. has led the global debate for two decades on a nonpartisan basis. There is a strong interest among many for a nonpartisan congressional response to the FCC’s action that will ensure an open Internet, but without the burden of utility-style regulation. The U.S. led a technological and regulatory revolution that changed the world. Surely we can find a way to ensure the Internet is open for the benefit of entrepreneurs, innovators and consumers without a return to the days of utility regulation.

Originally published in The Hill. Source URL:

Posted by admin on 03/13 at 09:05 AM

How to Really Preserve the Open Internet

Congress can write a better law than the FCC’s ill-advised regulations.

by Jamal Simmons

The Federal Communications Commission voted recently to approve regulating the Internet as a public utility under Title II of the Communications Act, approving the plan favored by President Barack Obama to achieve what’s known as “net neutrality.” But that may not be the best way to ensure the principles of an open Internet in an era of big political swings. Remarkably, bipartisan Congressional action is a real possibility and would do a better job ensuring lasting protection for consumers.

I bet most people who supported Title II utility-style regulation didn’t know that adopting that option would increase costs on low- and middle-income people. That’s not something in the standard net neutrality talking points, but it’s true. Robert Litan and Hal Singer authored a report for the Progressive Policy Institute that predicted new taxes and fees would increase by $11 billion because of state and local regulations as regulatory costs are passed on to consumers.

In fact, the prospect of increasing taxes and fees is so ominous that it inspired one of the first bipartisan actions of the new Congress. Recently, a bill was introduced in the Senate to prevent some sales taxes, though state and localities may still be able to impose other fees that the law can’t prohibit.

Adoption of Title II may cause other unintended harms that could stifle the innovative economy. The FCC says it will “forbear” from the application of certain provisions to prevent negative outcomes, but that could get pretty messy. Lawsuits are certainly on the way. Companies will jockey for their best position while trying to keep their competitors at bay, questioning the picking and choosing of each rule.

Although the ruling is settled, Congress can still pass a bipartisan solution that enacts the valuable objectives of preserving an open Internet while leaving the onerous utility-style regulations of Title II behind. There are other solutions available, such as Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, but the president and net neutrality supporters wanted something more. A Congressional act is a more permanent solution that would enshrine the prohibition against blocking sites, throttling speeds for consumers or allowing paid prioritization by companies for faster lanes, and would require disclosure of network management practices. A law doesn’t leave these rules in the hands of regulators whose opinions could change with the political winds. Who knows what political changes may come in 2016?

I co-chair the Internet Innovation Alliance because of a commitment to seeing more people in communities, such as the one where I grew up in Detroit, participate in the global technology revolution. Students need access to the best technology at school and at home to get up to competitive speed with their peers around the world. Mobile devices can help families get health care services that may be more difficult to access because of the dearth of facilities in low-income and rural communities. Entrepreneurs need access to global markets from wherever they are.

Ensuring we don’t discriminate in digital access is a core value when it comes to closing the opportunity gap. Government is an important partner in maintaining order in the marketplace, but maintaining an environment that encourages public and private investment in broadband availability and helps entrepreneurs maintain the flexibility to build great companies is critical.

It’s rare that Democrats and Republicans can agree on the substance of any matter, but there is great agreement on the principals of an open Internet. Companies, activists and political leaders from both parties want to make sure companies can’t pay for special treatment and consumers have high speed, reliable access to the Internet that can’t be blocked or slowed down. Let’s focus on the core values in common and write a law that will protect consumers while giving companies the ability to innovate without setting ourselves up for years of lawsuits and political wrangling. The people who need access to this valuable resource can’t wait for Washington power brokers to battle it out in the courts.

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Posted by admin on 03/12 at 09:52 AM

We Need a New ‘Straight A’ Strategy to Bridge the Digital Divide

It’s imperative that we prepare young people of color with the skills they need to succeed in a high-tech economy.

by Larry Irving and Jamal Simmons

Black History Month provides Americans an opportunity to celebrate our successes as a nation, reflect on what might have been and begin to craft a more inclusive future. Recent reports about the paucity of minority professionals in tech are all the more devastating because today’s underemployment has its roots in our collective failure to prepare all of America’s youth for the technology revolution that has swept our nation over the past 20 years.

Almost two decades ago, we had the honor of having front-row seats at the advent of the Internet era and the emergence of information technology as the new engine for driving global economies. Working at the Commerce Department under President Bill Clinton, Vice President Al Gore and Secretaries Ron Brown, Mickey Kantor and Richard Daley, we saw the dawning of a new era of opportunity and prosperity.

It was clear that the technology revolution could change the trajectory of some of the challenges facing low-income and black and Latino-American communities. On behalf of the Clinton administration, we worked to educate our communities so they could participate in the emerging high-tech economy; to stem the emerging digital divide; to connect urban, rural and low-income schools to the Internet; to inform black and Hispanic-serving colleges and universities about the need to prepare their graduates for careers in technology; and to educate black and Latino youth about the necessity of obtaining the skills they would need to succeed in the new economy.

As assistant secretary for the National Telecommunications & Information Administration, Larry outlined a Straight A Strategy consisting of three components—access, aptitude and attitude—in an attempt to steer a course for technological advancement that would include more of America’s cities and all of our citizens. When the 1990s tech boom collapsed and the Clinton administration ended, efforts such as the Straight A Strategy cratered. Despite the failure to develop an inclusive strategy for minority youth employment in tech back then, elements of that strategy still present a framework that has the potential to work today.

Access: Low-income and minority students still don’t have access to the educational technologies that are commonplace in more affluent American communities. The Federal Communications Commission’s new E-rate program will bring improved access to America’s schools and libraries, making institutional access more available to millions of Americans. The Internet Innovation Alliance, which we co-chair, has joined with key members of Congress and the FCC in calling for an overhaul of our Federal Lifeline program to bring greater access to broadband to millions of low-income Americans’ homes and to foster broader use of computing and Internet technologies.

Aptitude: In addition to providing connectivity and hardware, we also must provide students training and help them obtain the skills they will need for tech-industry jobs. Over a million additional high-tech jobs will be available between now and 2022—high-tech companies should make clear to public-sector leaders what skills students should learn so they are prepared to fill these jobs. Why are we talking about importing skilled workers, when we should be talking about imparting work skills?

Attitude: Finally, we need to ensure that all students and communities are familiar with new technologies and aware of the importance of high-tech skills. As President Clinton said in his commencement address at MIT in 1998, “All students should feel as comfortable with a keyboard as a chalkboard; as comfortable with a laptop as a textbook.” Sadly, that goal still eludes us two decades later.

One way to inspire our youth is to highlight the successes of those who come from their communities: Jewel Burks recently won a pitch competition for Partpic, her app that helps locate replacement parts for companies. Trey Brown recently started selling the Wemojis app that makes round-faced emojis with different skin colors for smartphones. Both of these entrepreneurs are recent Howard University graduates.

Two decades ago, America failed its children by not providing them with the tools, skills, environment and encouragement they would need to thrive in the high-tech economy we knew we were creating. Today, it’s imperative that we enlist the brightest minds in technology, government, education and urban communities to craft a new Straight A Initiative that ensures the future of all of America’s children and to create a new chapter in black history.

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Posted by admin on 02/24 at 01:43 PM

Outdated U.S. Regulations Would Stifle Global Internet

by Larry Irving

After years of contentious debate on net neutrality, there is good news and bad news in Washington. The good news is that there is strong bipartisan support for an open Internet. The bad news is that there is an increasingly partisan disagreement on how best to protect the open Internet.

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler recently provided a preview of the open Internet rules he intends to enact, but this sneak-peek was not well received by Republicans on Capitol Hill or by his Republican colleagues on the commission. Historically, Internet policy has been relatively free of partisan strife — but that may no longer be the case. Over the past decade, preservation of the open Internet has galvanized political progressives, consumer advocates and policy advocacy groups. Advocates of net neutrality decry court rulings suggesting that the FCC might not have authority to protect the open Internet, and so utility-type regulation of broadband under Title II of the Communications Act is seen by many progressives — and by the president and his advisers — as the only way to unambiguously assure the FCC’s authority. Yet Title II regulation of the Internet seems like the wrong solution to those of us who support an open Internet but fear the impact of burdening still-evolving wired and wireless networks with centuries-old rules.

The U.S. government declaring the Internet an essential utility and applying Title II rules will also have an impact on policy deliberations about the Internet in other nations. Since the inception of the Internet, the U.S. government has urged international policymakers and regulators to exercise regulatory restraint. To reverse course at this critical time in the development of the global Internet seems self-defeating.

Despite partisan distrust and increasingly strident debate about Internet policy in Washington, an opportunity to protect core Internet values without changing our historic bipartisan approach to Internet regulation remains. Republican members of Congress recently circulated legislation that would:

• Enforce prohibitions against wired and mobile Internet service providers from blocking access to lawful content and devices;

• Prohibit future “paid prioritization” deals under which content providers pay serve providers to have their content ahead of competitors;

• Prohibit “throttling” or slowing of Internet traffic; and

• Require detailed disclosure of network management practices.

While Democrats in Congress expressed concern about other provisions of the draft bills, those principles could serve as both a baseline and springboard for further congressional deliberations. A key benefit of a legislative solution is that it would provide assurance that some future commission won’t overturn proscriptions against network discrimination. Insistence on Title II regulation by a badly divided FCC only assures three things:

• The seemingly interminable fight over net neutrality will continue at the commission, in the Congress and in the courts;

• Regulatory uncertainty that will stifle investment and innovation in our nation’s most critical infrastructure will continue; and

• Policymakers and regulators in other nations will be encouraged to regulate an Internet that has thrived precisely because of the lack of government interference.

One year ago it would have been considered an historic victory of monumental proportions for Congress to pass open Internet legislation. And there is still time for a bipartisan legislative endorsement of the open Internet today, without resorting to Title II.

Both sides of the political spectrum need to ask themselves if they are more interested in making good policy or making a point. If Republicans and Democrats would embrace the opportunity to craft a legislative solution and declare victory, the ultimate winners would be those of us who want to see the Internet remain open — not just here in America, but globally.

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Posted by admin on 02/23 at 01:13 PM

Why Download Europe’s Lousy Broadband Policy?

Treating the Internet like a utility has been tried, with deleterious effects on innovation and costs.

by Rick Boucher and Fred Campbell

As the Federal Communications Commission prepares to treat Internet companies like public utilities under Title II of the 1934 Communications Act, it is worth asking how government regulation of the Internet would actually work. Conveniently enough, Europe has been experimenting with heavy-handed Internet regulation since 2002, and the results are a warning of what the U.S. can expect.

That is the conclusion of a new study by our organization, the Internet Innovation Alliance, a coalition of businesses and nonprofits. Over the past two decades, the U.S. has benefited from a bipartisan, light-touch broadband regulatory regime that has spurred more capital investment, more competition and—perhaps most important—more broadband capacity than in the European Union, which has a larger population and similar economy.

Consider capital investment, without which broadband networks do not exist and cannot be modernized. Fixed-broadband operators in the U.S. invested $137 billion in 2011 and 2012, more than four times Europe’s $31 billion over the same time period. U.S. mobile operators, at $55 billion, invested twice as much as their European counterparts’ $29 billion. Even when the comparison is made as a percentage of industry revenue, the U.S. investment advantage persists.

Europe’s “wholesale-access” regulatory regime, under which fixed operators must make their networks available to competitors at a regulated price, was ostensibly designed to promote competition. Yet in Europe, powerful incumbent carriers hold 65% of the local telephone market, while in the U.S. 59% of the local telephone market is served by new competitors. More than 90% of U.S. households can choose from among 10 or more providers.

A similar story emerges in facilities-based broadband competition. While 76% of American households have access to three or more fixed-broadband providers, in Europe less than 50% do. This is in large part because European investment has been so weak. Without robust investment, competition cannot flourish, and it is no surprise that 82% of U.S. households have access to high-speed broadband, compared with 63% in the European Union.

The study’s analysis of mobile networks also illustrates how the U.S. offers greater access than Europe to the highest-speed, so-called LTE networks. In 2012 only 30% of European households had access to LTE, while 79% of American households did.

So where does this leave us? Net-neutrality proponents assume that the impact of common-carrier regulations will be minimal and that the U.S. will maintain its technology lead forever, but the European regulatory example suggests that such an outcome is far from certain. It is more likely that imposing regulations crafted for last century’s monopoly telephone service will have a crippling and chilling effect on broadband investment. Investment drives innovation: As the Internet Innovation Alliance study demonstrates, Europe has fallen badly behind the U.S.

The European Union has wisely decided to pull back, recommending in 2013 that member-state regulators not impose wholesale-access prices on the deployment of next-generation networks, fearing that private investment would be severely reduced.

It is ironic that shortly after the European Commission recommended relaxing its Title II-style approach to broadband regulation, the FCC began considering whether to impose such a failed policy in the U.S. The irony is compounded by the reality that the FCC could use its existing authority to adopt strong network-neutrality protections without reclassifying broadband as a public utility.

Sufficient investment and innovation are needed to prevent Internet capability in the U.S. from declining, an alarming prospect for one of the economy’s most dynamic sectors. Furthermore, adding regulations while Europe scales back may send capital overseas to a more welcoming investment environment.

Mr. Boucher, a former Democratic congressman from Virginia, is a partner at Sidley Austin LLP and honorary chairman of the Internet Innovation Alliance. Mr. Campbell, formerly chief of the Federal Communications Commission’s Wireless Bureau, is the author of the study discussed in this op-ed.

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Posted by admin on 02/16 at 09:20 AM

Wheeler move latest blow to bipartisan Internet

Partisanship will only stunt progress progress on internet

by Bruce Mehlman and Larry Irving

While many things in Washington seemed broken over the past few decades, tech policy has not been one of them. Regardless of which party controlled Congress or the Federal Communication Commission (FCC), technology issues enjoyed civil discourse, bipartisan collaboration and thoughtful compromise. Partisanship stopped at the network’s edge.

Until now.

As thought leaders and policy gurus convened last month for the annual “State of the Net” conference, they faced a sobering reality: The State of the Net is imperiled. By Washington. The borderline theological debate over “net neutrality” is breaking the rules and threatening an approach that served our nation well. Policy deliberations once decided by non-partisan engineers have been hijacked by the Occupy Wall Street versus Tea Party legions. Battle is joined, lobbyists engaged, grassroots activated​.

And the war reached new heights this week, as FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler proposed regulating our most advanced companies based on the rules designed for our oldest.

For a majority of innovators and entrepreneurs around the nation, partisan paralysis is unwelcome news, likely to spawn years of litigation, cloud investment certainty and potentially slow our economy’s most powerful engine. For objective policy analysts, the partisan intensity surrounding the net neutrality debate is unnecessary and counterproductive. Bad politics is making for bad policy.

It has not always been thus. For example, presidents from both parties promoted federal investment in basic research that ensured our research universities’ global preeminence and launched the semiconductor, cellular and Internet industries, among others. Bipartisan high-skilled immigration policies encouraged the best and brightest to study here, invent here and create great jobs here. Collaborative support for patent laws helped craft the critical balance needed for intellectual property to flourish, while bipartisanship enabled the world’s first incentive for private research — the highly-effective R&D tax credit passed in 1981 — subsequently emulated by most developing economies.

A productive, bipartisan answer to the net neutrality challenge is staring us in the face. Congress makes the laws, and Congressional action here can be bipartisan, focused and effective, ensuring the Internet remains “fair and open.” For conservatives, the legislation will ensure that our most advanced technologies are not regulated like 20th century utilities and that FCC authorities are clearly identified by Congress. For liberals, such legislation will explicitly empower agencies to prevent companies from blocking, degrading or placing anti-competitive restrictions on Internet access without risk of yet-one-more legal challenge to their authority. Consumers gain protections, while businesses enjoy greater regulatory certainty. Only the lawyers lose.

America’s historic leadership in high technology innovation and entrepreneurship is more than the product of divine providence or cultural exceptionalism. Enlightened policies and regulatory humility have proved essential elements to reward risk-taking and encourage investment and invention. We face many challenges ahead, demanding smart policy. We need more spectrum to accommodate ever-accelerating wireless use and the Internet of Things. Network operators need greater flexibility to handle the exponential waves of new data. We need a united front against growing digital protectionism and assaults on the market-based multi-stakeholder model. Too few Americans possess the digital literacy to thrive in the knowledge economy, while too many cyber criminals remain unchecked.

It is time to return partisanship to the network’s edge. There is important work to be done.

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Posted by admin on 02/06 at 10:45 AM

On Net Neutrality: Title II Regulation Means Higher Taxes On Consumers

by Jamal Simmons

Congress is diving into the Open Internet debate with hearings last week on new net neutrality bills in the House and the Senate. Intense controversy over the benefits and downsides of turning broadband service into a public utility drags on, underscoring the need for a legislative solution. Many people advance claims on the impact of net neutrality to consumers, but now there are real numbers to discuss—numbers that make it clear that the President’s plan of imposing public utility-like Title II regulation on the Internet would lead to holes in family budgets.

A recent study by Progressive Policy Institute economists Robert Litan and Hal Singer is the first significant effort to quantify how much it could potentially cost consumers if broadband services are reclassified as “telecommunications services” under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934. By regulating broadband service under Title II, the Federal Communications Commission would essentially be required to treat this service under the same rules as the old telephone monopoly from decades ago. By switching from the current light-touch regime to Title II, broadband Internet services would be subjected to a panoply of requirements, such as for entry and exit. That also means broadband would likely become burdened with a host of new state and local taxes and fees, the kind we pay on our monthly home and/or wireless phone bills. These taxes and fees are normally passed on to consumers; when they rise, consumers end up paying more. Expect the same with broadband.

According to Litan and Singer, these new state and local fees will increase by $15 billion, impacting consumers to varying degrees. The average American household with a fixed broadband connection would pay in the range of an additional $51 to $83 per year, and those with one smartphone or other wireless broadband device (tablet) would pay $72 more annually. For many working American families, that’s money that could be used to help cover necessities like food, gas or rent.

Make no mistake: These fees would apply if broadband is reclassified under Title II. Unlike certain provisions of the law, the FCC has no forbearance authority over how a state imposes taxes on its services. It would be up to Congress to step in and take action. 

When the government taxes cigarettes and tobacco, it discourages people from using these products to protect health. In this case, those taxes would discourage broadband use, exactly opposite of the desired impact. High-speed Internet is our link, not only to each other, but to health, education, government, entertainment and information. Broadband literacy is the foundation for jobs of the future and increasingly jobs of today’s economy. We shouldn’t tax broadband more heavily; it would be like charging people to enter a public library.

The PPI report makes clear that Title II net neutrality proponents need to face the facts that any FCC action to reclassify broadband as a telecom service will result in a tax increase for the average American. Besides, reclassification is completely unnecessary—the FCC can use its existing powers under Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act to ensure an open Internet, preventing blocking access to websites, “paid prioritization” or other actions that are harmful to consumers.

Yes, there are good government programs that help low-income consumers with basic communications services. The FCC’s Lifeline program, for example, has demonstrated success in connecting millions of Americans to voice telephone service—but the program should be modernized to include broadband. Like Lifeline being stuck in centuries past, additional taxes and fees on high-speed Internet would be another delay to our nation fully entering the broadband century. We need more and better high-speed connections; policymakers shouldn’t discourage broadband investment and broadband consumption with unnecessary rules.

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Posted by admin on 01/26 at 11:33 AM

Net Neutrality Is Low-Hanging Fruit for Congress

by Rick Boucher

As is normal, the start of a new Congress resonated with pledges of bipartisan intention as legislative leaders expressed a determination to work across the aisle in addressing the nation’s challenges.

All too often, the opening week’s bipartisan good feeling devolves into partisan bickering. But, this year can be different. The tech arena is yielding a promising legislative opportunity with ample incentive for Democrats and Republicans to cooperate in the early passage of a bill that resolves one of the most contentious policy debates of 2015.

The issue is net neutrality, which has dominated the debate in tech policy circles since the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit invalidated the Federal Communications Commission’s 2010 Open Internet Rule and tossed the matter back to the FCC. The rhetoric has sharpened and the partisan divide has widened as the time for FCC resolution of the matter approaches.

The nation’s broadband providers are concerned that during the FCC’s Feb. 26 public meeting, as a prelude to adopting a new set of net-neutrality rules, the agency will decide to treat broadband Internet access service as a public utility under Title II of the Communications Act. With justification, they claim that imposing monopoly rules from the era of rotary telephones on broadband services would stifle investment at the very time when we have a national goal to extend high-speed Internet service to 98 percent of the nation. Both Republicans and Democrats have echoed those arguments.

On the other side of the debate are claims of potential consumer harm that would result if the commission fails to reclassify broadband under Title II. Without Title II, they argue that the FCC lacks authority to prevent actions such as the blocking of websites, the slowing down of competitors’ content or the creation of Internet fast lanes that harm consumers or potentially benefit some content providers to the disadvantage of others.

The coming month, before the FCC acts presents a timely opportunity for Congress to step in and resolve the debate on terms that would seemingly be agreeable to Democrats and Republicans, broadband providers and consumers seeking continued access to robust high-speed Internet services. The FCC promulgated its Open Internet Rule in 2010 against a backdrop of consensus that had been reached through lengthy discussions among the stakeholders. While not all of the parties were in agreement, a critical mass of consumer groups, broadband providers and policymakers created the consensus that resulted in the FCC’s Open Internet framework. It’s notable that among broadband providers, AT&T publicly expressed support for the rule, and it was ultimately approved with the FCC’s Democratic members voting affirmatively. Even more noteworthy is that in the four years since the Open Internet Rule was adopted, broadband providers have integrated its requirements into daily operations, and high-speed Internet access service has expanded absent consumer complaints of violations.

Narrow legislation that specifically empowers the FCC to re-promulgate the 2010 Open Internet Rule would simultaneously cure the D.C. Circuit’s objection that the FCC lacked the statutory authority to act, maintain the existing classification of broadband, avoid imposing new barriers to investment associated with reclassification, and assure that rules are in place that maintain Internet openness. While enabling the FCC to adopt the 2010 Rule, the legislation would circumscribe the agency’s authority to impose onerous Title II regulations on broadband.

This approach would allow parties on both sides of the debate to claim victory and secure for each its major objective. It’s a rare opportunity for Congress to act in a bipartisan fashion while a substantial measure of bipartisan good intention remains. Let’s not let the moment pass.

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Posted by admin on 01/13 at 10:26 AM

For Lifeline Program in the 21st Century, Consumers Must Have the Power

by Rick Boucher

More than 45 million people in the United States live below the poverty line. For many of these Americans, the Federal Communications Commission’s Lifeline program has been a lifesaver, offering essential communications in times of emergency, not to mention help in everyday life. But it’s a 20th century government program aimed at spreading a 19th century technology: basic voice telephone service. Nearly all agree that, in today’s broadband world, this program from the 1980’s needs a major overhaul.

The decades-old premise of the Lifeline program is that low-income consumers should have access to the communications service Americans commonly use. In the 1980’s, that meant assuring the availability of basic voice service; today, that means broadband.

Each day brings new examples of how broadband-delivered Internet services are fundamentally changing the nature of communications. In the 1980’s, the wired telephone was the predominant communications platform for almost everyone. Today, just five percent of Americans rely exclusively on “plain old telephone service.” The rest use a variety of communications devices, a growing number of which are broadband-enabled.

So the question is not just whether to expand Lifeline to include broadband, an idea endorsed by two FCC commissioners and the chairman at the agency’s December open meeting; the question is how to incorporate broadband without exploding the cost of the program.

A recently released report from the Internet Innovation Alliance (IIA) charts a path toward reform. In today’s highly competitive communications market, the new reality is that consumers are now in charge. No longer do communications users passively accept a service designed by regulators and delivered by telephone companies. With 80 percent of Americans having access to five or more wireless offerings in addition to cable and wired telephone, consumers freely shift among communications services, selecting the one that is best tailored to their needs.

Respecting the new power of consumers in the market, IIA recommends that the Lifeline subsidy become user-directed. It’s an elegant and simple concept: Let the consumer decide. The aid could be applied to a broadband service that incorporates person-to-person communications applications such as Skype and FaceTime, or to plain old phone service, via a voice-only wireless carrier or a wired telephone. Similar to the federal Food Stamp program, eligible subscribers could receive a “Lifeline Benefit Card” with which they can easily shop among various communications providers.

In theory, the FCC could make this change, bringing millions of Americans into the competitive telephone market, without increasing Lifeline program costs. In fact, the simplicity of a Lifeline shopping card provided to eligible consumers may prove less administratively costly than the current program.

Another major shortcoming of the Lifeline program is related to its administration. Today, the carriers, who have obvious financial incentives to increase enrollment, determine subscriber eligibility. That determination is an inherently governmental function and should be given to a governmental agency such as the Universal Service Fund Administrator or state public utility commissions that have every motivation to eliminate fraud and program misuse. The change would not only significantly increase administrative efficiency, but would also reduce program cost.

Beyond these major program reforms, it would make sense to de-link the Lifeline program from any notion of “eligible telecommunications carrier” (ETC) status. This concept is as worn out as the notion of Lifeline only supporting voice service. With these targeted changes, we can bring an essential government program into the 21st century, offering direct and immediate benefits to the people it serves while strengthening it against fraud and misuse.

Imagine all the ways the 14.5 percent of Americans living below the poverty line could benefit from broadband. Modernization of this government program is a must because, today, the Internet is a jobs line, an education line, a health line, and an information line. The Lifeline Program has demonstrated success connecting millions of Americans for the first time, but its future can be even more meaningful than its past.

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Download Boucher’s Op-Ed From Bloomberg’s Daily Report for Executives (PDF)

Download Boucher’s Op-Ed From Bloomberg’s Telecommunications Law Resource Center (PDF)

Posted by admin on 01/08 at 10:03 AM

Title II is wrong way to keep an open Internet

by Jamal Simmons and Rosa Mendoza

Last week, the president called on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to reclassify broadband service under Title II of the Telecommunications Act of 1934. We fully agree with the president when it comes to his goals for an open Internet. There should be no blocking, throttling, or paid prioritization by companies looking for faster lanes than their competitors. In addition, ISPs should be completely transparent. The one thing we differ on is regulating the Internet under Title II, a piece of legislation created decades ago for the regulation of obsolete devices. 

The president’s approach is the wrong way to go especially when considering the recently released Pew Internet Project report on “Killer Apps in the Gigabit Age.” The report detailed these experts’ beliefs about the breathtaking future that could be possible when connection speeds reach 1,000 megabits of information per second, about 100 times faster than speeds commonly available today in the United States. 

These speeds will allow far more data to pass between and through networks. Many experts who responded to Pew’s questions looked forward to the commonplace use of virtual realities and avatars for meetings, sporting events and long-distance family dinners. Daily home check-ins from devices and far away medical professionals could revolutionize healthcare.  Shopping could become a completely different experience with consumers choosing new dresses online and having them appear on a home 3-D printer queue soon after.

Ensuring everyone has access to these coming developments should be a major priority in the Internet Age. Twenty years ago, the talk of a digital divide in computer access became commonplace.  In recent years, Pew has well-documented the disparity in broadband access for African American, Latino and other under-resourced communities. Since these communities are already at a disadvantage when it comes to broadband access, it makes them significantly more vulnerable to policies that could potentially impede innovation or progress within the industry. 

Obama made the right call by taking on the challenge of getting schools and libraries access to faster broadband through his ConnectED initiative and modernizing the Universal Service Fund. Getting those students high-speed broadband access at home requires private sector investment and that means creating more certainty. According to the Progressive Policy Institute, broadband providers spent “roughly $46 billion in broadband investment in 2013.”  To continue promoting this type of private sector investment we must not over-regulate innovative broadband providers using antiquated policies that may end up being litigated for years and diminish the certainty of being able to bring high-speed, advanced broadband networks to all Americans.

Technology has surpassed the days of the rotary phone system and has created a dynamically competitive Internet ecosystem that touches virtually every sector of the economy from banking, ordering a taxi, or even receiving medical attention. In the early part of the twentieth century no one could have imagined how the phone would transform and ultimately provide the technological capabilities it offers us today. Similarly, society can only speculate as to the potential benefits that further technological advancement will make possible in 10 or 20 years. Adding another layer of bureaucratic oversight on this dynamic industry will hinder innovation and potentially discourage investment. Innovative and forward thinking companies would face the inevitable requirement to obtain government approvals and investors may be forced to look elsewhere for capital returns to avoid the uncertainty of navigating the labyrinth of bureaucratic approval processes. 

A better option exists that would provide the necessary oversight to preserve the Open Internet. The courts have made clear that Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 provides the FCC with enough authority to “encourage the deployment on a reasonable and timely basis of advanced telecommunications capability to all Americans.” That would foster an environment for investment flexibility and open access. 

Investment flexibility matters not only to broadband companies and individual consumers but also to technology companies founded by African American and Latino entrepreneurs. Though these companies tend to operate with smaller profit margins, they also tend to hire more minorities. That matters when unemployment among Black and Latino communities remains higher than white unemployment. Many companies would not be able to survive the added costs of complying with Title II regulations that may impact “edge providers.” 

The FCC should pursue the President’s push for an open Internet, but we recommend using a lighter regulatory approach such as Section 706. Focusing on regulatory solutions that ensure access, innovation and investment will keep all Americans benefitting from these digital advancements.

As Chairman Wheeler himself said in October 2014, “Twenty-first century consumers shouldn’t be shackled to rules that only recognize 20th century technology.”

We couldn’t agree more.

Simmons is co-chair of IIA and Mendoza is executive director of HTTP.

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Posted by admin on 11/21 at 08:47 AM