Washington weighs in on net neutrality


Internet HabitsPresident Barack Obama’s call for Title II regulation of assure the perpetuation of a free and open network got the Washington DC PR machine operating in fifth gear. Here are remarks from Capitol Hill, the cable community and a watchdog.

* Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), Chair, Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee: “I have repeatedly called on the FCC to use its full statutory authority to preserve a free and open Internet. Millions of Americans have urged the FCC to carry out its longstanding statutory obligation to protect consumers and competition. I join the President’s call for the FCC to preserve net neutrality by using the full scope of its authority, including Title II, subject to appropriate forbearance. It is now critical for the FCC to act expeditiously, and I know Chairman Wheeler is already engaging all stakeholders for input on how best to move forward.”

* John Thune (R-SD), Ranking Member, Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee: “The president’s call for the FCC to use Title II to create new net neutrality restrictions would turn the Internet into a government-regulated utility and stifle our nation’s dynamic and robust Internet sector with rules written nearly 80 years ago for plain old telephone service. The president’s stale thinking would invite legal and marketplace uncertainty and perpetuate what has needlessly become a politically corrosive policy debate. It is critical that the Internet remain open and that consumers are protected. As it crafts new rules, the FCC should recognize the benefits of its highly successful light-touch regulatory approach to Internet policy, and, most importantly, the FCC must follow the law.”

* Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI), Communications and Technology Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR), and Vice Chairman Bob Latta (R-OH): “We are extremely troubled and disappointed by the president’s urging the FCC to regulate the Internet as a utility under Title II of the Communications Act. Today’s announcement is just the latest in a long line of decisions that reveal this administration simply doesn’t know how to grow the economy. “The Internet was born here in the United States. It flourished because the federal government had the foresight to get out of the way and let the innovative U.S. economy foster its growth. Sadly, it appears the president is abandoning the successful hands-off policy of his Republican and Democratic predecessors in favor of centrally controlled Internet policy. This is a mistake. “One of the few places where investment and innovation have thrived, even in a struggling economy, is the Internet. American companies continue to invest billions of dollars to expand and improve broadband Internet access and online services. Reclassification under Title II threatens our thriving Internet economy and the American jobs it creates. The Internet isn’t a utility, so we shouldn’t treat it as one.”

* Henry Waxman (D-CA), Ranking Member, House Energy and Commerce Committee: “Today is a great day for the Internet. The President has called on the FCC to adopt the three cornerstones of a free and open Internet: no blocking, no throttling, and no paid prioritization. The President is showing true leadership. He has given strong, unequivocal support for robust open Internet protections. And he has made it clear that he stands with consumers and the public, not the cable and phone companies that could profit by turning the Internet into slow and fast lanes. I strongly support the rules the President has articulated and urged the FCC to adopt them in a letter I sent last month. The FCC is right to make sure it has the record it needs to act, but any delay for additional examination should be short. The FCC should now move expeditiously to complete the rulemaking and establish the bright-line rules against blocking, throttling, and paid prioritization that define a free and open Internet.”

* Anna Eshoo (D-CA), Ranking Member, House Subcommittee on Communications and Technology: “The President’s statement today recognizes once again the guiding tenets of a free and open Internet. His endorsement of a sound legal approach to open Internet rules will continue the success of the Internet. I strongly urge the FCC to adopt the President’s approach.”

* Craig Aaron, Free Press: “The president who promised to take a back seat to no one on Net Neutrality has finally gotten in the driver’s seat. And he may have saved the Internet at the moment it was in the greatest jeopardy. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler and the other commissioners now must abandon convoluted proposals and make clear rules that will protect Internet users and stand up in court. As the president made very clear, the only sure way to do that is under Title IIThe millions who’ve fought for an open Internet now will need to defend the president’s bold stand against the expected onslaught from Internet service providers and their many lobbyists. But no industry or partisan spin can change the fact that Title II is a deregulatory, flexible approach that has allowed the Internet to flourish. The struggle for real Net Neutrality isn’t over, but the president’s action is a major step in the right direction. To protect the open Internet that Americans demand, the FCC now must act and reclassify ISPs under Title II.”

* Michael Powell, NCTA: “We are stunned the President would abandon the longstanding, bipartisan policy of lightly regulating the Internet and call for extreme Title II regulation. The cable industry strongly supports an open Internet, is building an open internet, and strongly believes that over-regulating the fastest growing technology in our history will not advance the cause of Internet freedom. There is no dispute about the propriety of transparency rules and bans on discrimination and blocking. But this tectonic shift in national policy, should it be adopted, would create devastating results. Heavily regulating the Internet will lead to slower Internet growth, higher prices for consumers, and the threat of excessive intervention by the government in the working of the Internet. This will also have severe and profound implications internationally, as the United States loses the high ground in arguing against greater control of the Internet by foreign governments. There is no substantive justification for this overreach, and no acknowledgment that it is unlawful to prohibit paid prioritization under Title II. We will fight vigorously against efforts to impose this backwards policy. The FCC is an independent agency and it should exercise independent judgment in crafting new rules. This is truly a matter that belongs in Congress and only Congress should make a policy change of this magnitude. Congress can easily unravel the legal and jurisdictional knot that has tied up the FCC in crafting sustainable open Internet rules, without resorting to rules of the rotary-dial phone era. We urge Congress to swiftly exercise leadership of this important issue.”

* Matthew M. Polka, American Cable Association: “Smaller broadband ISPs are no threat to the Open Internet. Period. Accordingly, consumers of these providers have long benefited from the government’s light touch in applying regulation to broadband Internet services. This approach, enjoying bipartisan support for more than a decade, has created a beneficial economic environment where deployment and enhancement of broadband networks by smaller broadband ISPs in smaller cities and markets have flourished. Common carrier regulation of telephone service crafted in 1934 under President Franklin Roosevelt should not be applied to a thriving, bustling broadband Internet market in 2014 under President Barack Obama. A Title II regulatory regime will choke off investment and will do more harm than good.”