Reports have it that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will soon repeal Obama-imposed “common carrier” regulations which hogtie the growth of Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and the Internet.
The change – which will occur through the FCC's pending Restoring Internet Freedom (RIF) rulemaking – will restore U.S. Internet policy back to the “light touch” regulatory framework which was so successful in growing the Internet in the first place.
Although the common carrier / public utility rules have been in effect for a little more than two years, it has wrought terrible damage on the investment needed to make the Internet flourish for all Americans.
Since the regulations were enacted, analysis shows that industry expenditures have slid dramatically—going from a peak of $78.4 billion in 2014 to $76 billion in 2016. In other words, a staggering loss of $2 billion in only a few short years. Most attribute this to the well-known, investment-chilling effects of common carrier regulation, also known as Title II.
Sadly, activists supporting the prior Commission have aligned against the proposed RIF rule, seeking to “RESIST” the present FCC. They have enlisted the support of RESIST legislators in the states and localities to back-door utility regulation of ISPs in a coordinated effort to openly deny the restoration of light touch regulation for the broadband Internet.
Legislators in 30 states have introduced 5-dozen bills this past year seeking to derail congressional revocation of Obama-imposed ISP privacy rules. This strategy will continue and likely expand beyond the realm of privacy, into the areas of utility price and service regulation of ISPs. If these efforts are successful, however, the end result will be chaos: A glut of conflicting state and local laws that would both undermine the RIF's goal of restoring true Internet freedom, and also obliterate the FCC's role as exclusive regulator of interstate communications services.
This must not happen.
The FCC's justifiably renewed commitment to light touch regulation will prove integral in guiding the development of new services, such as wireless 5G and the Internet of Things (IoT), which will make our lives better in the years to come. Hundreds-of-billions of dollars of added investment and innovation; millions of new, good paying jobs; and ubiquitous, affordable access for all Americans to the high-speed Internet hang in the balance.
RESIST laws must be preempted.
Broadband Internet access is an interstate communications / information service. There's nothing state or local about it. Congress delegated its constitutional authority to regulate commerce between the states and gave the FCC exclusive jurisdiction to regulate this field. Quite simply, the FCC has both the imperative and authority to override state and local efforts which conflict or obstruct with the RIF's uniform, national framework.
It should aggressively do so should the need arise.
The FCC's work to turn around the harm from the previous Commission's common carrier rules cannot come too soon. Going forward, the FCC can provide for the continued success of its RIF rule by clearly preempting state and local laws that undermine it and / or the FCC's underlying authority to restore light touch regulation for the broadband Internet.
Mike Wendy is president of Media Freedom, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.
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