TALLAHASSEE–July 27, 2018 –originally published on the South Florida Sun-Sentinel
After months of internet doomsday predictions, the FCC repeal of Title II “net neutrality” regulations have come and gone, and yet, to no surprise of those who knew better, the internet is still alive and kicking, and net neutrality has gone nowhere.
While the Internet Service Provider (ISP) industry stays focused on its usual business of robust innovation and expansion, the fearmongers in support of Title II’s utility-style, onerous regulations are determined to continue misleading the American people.
Rather than embrace a return to the internet’s original “light touch” style of regulation formed during the Clinton administration, some members of Congress recently launched a Congressional Review Act (CRA) process, an ill-conceived, rarely used stunt, to force a vote to re-institute Title II rules.
Make no mistake about it: restoring Title II regulations would have an unwelcome impact on the lives and livelihoods of resident Floridians. Despite these realities, the CRA passed the Senate and is now headed to the House.
Title II regulations are designed to regulate utility industries, where consumers have one choice, or else. The ISP industry, on the other hand, offers millions of customers across America a smorgasbord of wired, wireless and satellite-enabled choices in how they access the internet. These regulations at minimum are categorically inappropriate for this dynamic, market-driven industry.
Worse, under Title II, future administrations could introduce billions in new regulations to ISP companies and passed-on costs to the businesses and households they serve. At a time when consumers’ demand for connectivity is exponentially growing, the last thing the government should do is stunt the industry’s ability to invest in new broadband infrastructure or technologies.
For the brief time Title II regulations were in place, immediate evidence of their destructive influence mounted. Some economists estimated the regulations cost the economy 700,000 jobs and a colossal $150 billion.
By contrast, during the many years before the previous FCC adopted its heavy-handed, antiquated rules in 2015, the internet experienced an unprecedented era of innovation and growth, generating 11 million jobs and more than $1 trillion in economic investment.
Florida was no exception to this boon — more than three million households and counting in the state have access to high-speed internet. Passing the short-sighted, partisan CRA is the last thing Florida needs to keep its online marketplace moving in the right direction.
Instead, Florida needs Congress to pass a transparent, thoughtful and long-term legislative solution for regulating the internet — the most dynamic economic driver of our time. This legislation should enshrine 21st-century rules for a 21st-century internet and prevent a constant regulatory flip-flop of net neutrality rules.
Florida ISPs have made clear they are committed to policies that ensure there is no blocking, throttling or unfair discrimination in online traffic. This core principle of an open internet experience for everyone is not controversial to the industry; it is the standard.
There is a common misconception that there are those who oppose net neutrality and those who support it. The reality is everyone wants to protect net neutrality. The difference lies in how to effectively reach that objective.
While the private sector is already taking proactive action to preserve and protect net neutrality in the wake of the FCC repeal, bipartisan consensus is needed to ensure the internet remains an open and free marketplace. The only way to achieve this is for Congress to pass comprehensive legislation.
In lieu of passing an anti-free market, burdensome CRA, we urge Florida’s congressional leaders to instead pass true net neutrality legislation — a law that would protect an open internet to spur continued economic growth and job creation for our region without destroying the free-market dynamic that made the unprecedented proliferation of the internet what it is today.
We are confident our lawmakers can unite to enact comprehensive legislation that preserves our shared core values of maintaining an open and free internet.
Brad Swanson is president and CEO of the Florida Internet & Television.