Where We Stand on Net Neutrality
In April the FCC issued its draft of proposed rule making on new Open Internet rules to replace those struck down by the DC Circuit Court in January. Since then, the FCC has requested comments on those proposed rules so that all stakeholders – from network operators and content creators to entrepreneurs, intellectuals, and everyday users alike – could weigh in on the future of the Internet. Over a million comments were submitted. Ideas and opinions ranging from the sublime to the insane were shared with the FCC in order to contribute to this important conversation. Reply comments are now being submitted and then finally the FCC will draw up official rules.
Since the draft was issued, we’ve been working hard to encourage an enlightened and constructive discourse on the future of the most important communications technology since moveable print. We’ve shared how over-regulation would threaten innovation and broadband investment. We’ve revealed how Title II reclassification could lead to a permission-based Internet, replacing today’s vibrant digital marketplace. And we’ve shown how the principles of Net Neutrality can be protected without extreme changes to our existing regulatory framework.
Cable broadband providers are unequivocally committed to building and maintaining an open Internet experience. That means we support the original principles of Net Neutrality – that all legitimate Internet traffic should be treated equally when traveling over local networks, that ISPs should not pick favorites, and that consumers should have unfettered access to legal content of their choosing. Consumers value a free and open Internet experience, and we value their business. That’s why we’ve supported the FCC’s efforts to ensure consumers have basic protections — from the Four Freedoms first set forth in 2005, to the more recent Open Internet Order, which created actual rules in 2010. Again, cable companies did not appeal the 2010 order and we still support its principles today.
But in spite of these facts, some still insist that Title II is the only way to protect consumers from an unfair Internet. They suggest the FCC throw out 15 years of growth and success by reclassifying broadband as Title II common carrier and regulating the Internet as a public utility. But pursuing that course ignores an incredibly important reality – that the Internet has succeeded up until this point because it has been free to grow, innovate, and change largely free from government oversight.
Today, the Internet does not depend on the political process for its growth. It does not require the FCC to approve of changes in technology or infrastructure. It does not wait through government holding periods before it makes available new products or services. And it does not suffer through extended droughts of public funding that plague so many of our public utilities today. Instead, the Internet lives, grows, and thrives based on the needs of millions of consumers that use it every day. It changes as fast as technology does. The only way we can ensure this remains true is to dismiss a common carrier solution.
Instead, we proposed in our comments a solution that follows the outline laid out by the DC Circuit Court that uses Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act. Section 706 empowers the Internet industry to continue to innovate without putting handcuffs on its most pioneering companies. And it offers strong consumer protections that guarantee enforceable open Internet rules and promotes competitive marketplaces.
Classifying the most technologically advanced communications network in human history as a common carrier is a terrible mistake. Broadband is an amazing tool. Rather than completely dismantling the rules that have allowed it to flourish, we should be finding new ways to encourage growth and support sustainable openness and neutrality.