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Leading by Example -- Closing the FCC’s Title II Reclassification Proceeding

July 15, 2011

In an op-ed in today’s Washington Post, Karen Kornbluh, U.S. ambassador to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, and Daniel Weitzner, White House Deputy Chief Technology Officer for Internet Policy, made a powerful case for building an international consensus around the benefits of an open, interconnected Internet.

According to Kornbluh and Weitzner, the Internet is such a powerful engine of economic and social advancement because no centralized authority governs it and no nation owns it – which “means that nations that choose to take a heavy-handed approach to regulating the Internet can reduce its value for every other nation and user.”

In particular, Kornbluh and Weitzner argue that “[t]he first threat is posed by some governments and international institutions intent on imposing pre-Internet-era telecommunications regulatory schemes to provide them control over the flow of information (and money) they enjoyed in the old days of the monopoly phone company.”

We couldn’t agree more.  In this country, the FCC opened a docket to examine whether broadband Internet access service should be reclassified as a pre-Internet-era common carrier service under Title II of the Communications Act.  NCTA and others pointed out that imposing a top-down Depression-era regulatory structure on modern broadband facilities would not only be unlawful but would depress broadband investment and job-producing economic growth at the worst possible time.

Fortunately, the FCC declined to reclassify broadband Internet access service in its Open Internet Order.  Unfortunately, the reclassification docket was expressly left open.

If we want other nations to reject the idea of imposing old-style regulatory structures on the Internet, there’s no place to start like home.  It’s time for the FCC to close the Title II reclassification docket.  That would prevent a future Commission from turning back the clock, and send a clear message to the rest of the world.

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