The remarkable growth of the Internet over the last 20 years has largely been driven by technological advances, but proposed regulations threaten to put the brakes on this communications medium that has been a boon to business and consumers alike.
Thanks in part to the light regulatory touch the federal and state governments have applied to broadband service, the vast majority of Americans now have access to high-speed Internet. Stable rules, market forces and competition have combined to create a vibrant industry. But some regulators in Washington want to apply 1930s thinking to our 21st century broadband network, and that could have negative consequences for companies, commerce and customers.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) seeks to reinstate two Open Internet rules recently invalidated by a federal court. Some are proposing the FCC take the radical step of forcing broadband providers — currently classified as “information services,” over which the FCC has no authority — to comply with a set of laws and regulations known as Title II that were enacted as part of the New Deal in the 1930s to regulate a phone business monopoly.
Reclassifying broadband providers as “public utilities” would come with risks and costs. Rather than letting companies innovate and respond to their customers and market demand with new services, Title II would require approval of every new idea by Washington bureaucrats. Consumers would see new taxes and fees on their broadband service bills similar to what they see on their phone bills today. Consumer protections — like oversight by the Federal Trade Commission — would disappear. And the Internet would begin to resemble another crumbling network subjected to heavy government oversight: the interstate highway system.
The broadband market here in the Valley of the Sun is highly competitive and provides affordable, fast Internet for residents and businesses. Broadband access is driving innovation and revitalization in Phoenix’s downtown core, with high-tech and medical companies and campuses utilizing high-speed Internet to facilitate their research and discoveries. Over-regulation by the FCC could slow down those gains and our economic recovery.
The FCC should continue its “light touch” regulatory practices and reinstate the Open Internet rules in a sensible way that ensures the Internet will continue to drive innovation in our Valley, our state and our nation.
— Todd Sanders is president and CEO of the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce.