ATR’s Digital Liberty Project filed comments yesterday with the Federal Communications Commission objecting to their plan to impose 1930s regulations on the Internet. The comments shot back at false statements made by the neo-Marxist groups Free Press and Public Knowledge – as well as the FCC themselves – who believe the Internet should be taken from private industry and individuals to be made into a public utility.
The Internet has never been a regulated entity, and we argued the reasoning that led the FCC to determine it was an unregulated “information service” – as opposed to a regulated “telecommunications service” – is still valid today. We fired back at claims that prior law actually intended for more regulation when the first words of the 1996 Telecom Act read: “To promote competition and reduce regulation….” We also pointed out the many services Internet service providers offer that are distinctly “information services,” such as email hosting and DNS look-up. And we flat out mocked the FCC, Free Press, and Public Knowledge for claiming that targeted ads by Internet service providers on bandwidth speeds proved they were merely a means of connecting to the Internet. (Is a Swiffer mop really just a replacement for a stay-at-home mom’s love life?)
The FCC’s plan brings enormous uncertainty to the market and future investment. After claiming the plan is limited in scope, the FCC listed their proposed regulations and asked, “Are there others that should be added to this list?” Free Press cheerfully took them up, offering a whole host of regulations on mergers and acquisitions, forcing ISPs to resell their network lines to competitors, and more. In truth, the FCC’s plan creates enormous uncertainty by relying on a tool called “forbearance,” which allows them to apply various regulations almost at whim. This has an enormous impact for investors, who won’t dive into a regulated market with a lower chance of recouping capital. We also pointed out that Free Press – which claims there will be more certainty – argues that investment will be skewed toward wireless broadband if it (and not wireline broadband) is unregulated. Hmm…
Finally, we highlighted the way in which this plan opens the door to government price setting, when there really is no justification for rushing into such regulations to begin with. There is no consumer harm in the marketplace today to necessitate regulating the Internet. This opposition to the Commission’s plan has bipartisan sentiment with at least 282 Members of Congress, various U.S. courts, prior presidential administrations, and a vast majority of the American people.
Quite simply, the right way to move innovation forward is not the FCC’s way backward of imposing Depression-era regulations on the Internet.
To read our comments, click here. We also happily joined comments from the Internet Freedom Coalition, which you can read here. Finally, we helped rally over 150 organizations, state lawmakers, and bloggers to sign coalition letters opposing the FCC, which you can find here and here.