Feb 16, 2015 - 9:00am

On Net Neutrality: Don’t Break the Internet


Chief Executive Officer, U.S. Chamber of Commerce

 

A free and open Internet has become a platform for innovation and economic activity unmatched in history. It has catalyzed the digital age, driving technological advancement at a breathtaking rate. It has put limitless information at our fingertips, transforming communication, education, entertainment, and civic participation. It has helped equalize opportunity for individuals, enabling them to create and deliver new products and services in new ways to more consumers than ever. And it has done all of this with great speed and flexibility—and with little interference from the government.

For more than two decades, lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have agreed that the Internet should be regulated with a “light-touch.” This approach has allowed competition, accelerated innovation, spurred investment, and ultimately fostered the vibrant and dynamic Internet that we enjoy today.

But soon that could all change with a heavy-handed regulatory proposal known as “net neutrality,” which the White House has endorsed and the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has said he will implement. The proposal would stringently regulate Internet Service Providers like a public utility, forcing them to ask for government permission when trying to react to changes in technology and consumer demand. The basis of the proposal is 80-year-old legislation that was enacted when rotary telephones were considered modern technology and has little relevance to 21st century broadband networks.

If the entire Internet is placed under the control of federal bureaucrats, the rate, speed, and flexibility of innovation would suffer—and so would consumers. The FCC could require that new services and business models be vetted and approved by its board. The move would also discourage necessary investment in broadband networks and sock consumers with $17 billion in new federal, state, and local fees on top of their monthly bills.

Moreover, if the FCC moves forward with net neutrality, the broadband industry would be plunged into years of litigation and subject to regulatory and market uncertainty. Congress—not unelected bureaucrats—should be responsible for determining federal broadband policy. Lawmakers are attempting to craft legislation that would provide the FCC with statutory guidance on this issue, and we hope they will preserve the light-touch approach that has worked for 20 years.

We recognize that the issue of net neutrality divides the tech community, but there can be no neutrality as far as the U.S. Chamber is concerned. We oppose efforts to regulate the Internet as if it were a 20th century public utility. The Internet must remain open, flexible, and innovative—and free from excessive regulation.

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About the Author

About the Author

Thomas J. Donohue
Chief Executive Officer, U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Thomas J. Donohue is chief executive officer of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.