Today, 14 groups representing free-market advocates opposed to Internet regulation, filed comments with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), calling on the Commission to delay any effort to issue “Network Neutrality” regulations until Congress has provided the agency clear authority to do so.
The groups argue that because the Internet services market is competitive, thriving, and serving consumers well, the FCC must not “step into the breach and create a massive new regulatory regime which will have profound effects not only on the communications industry itself, but also on virtually every aspect of our society and economy.”
The free-market advocates – which include American Commitment, American Conservative Union, Americans for Prosperity, Americans for Tax Reform, Center for Individual Freedom, Digital Liberty, FreedomWorks, Institute for Liberty, Institute for Policy Innovation, Less Government, MediaFreedom, National Taxpayers Union, NetCompetition, and Taxpayer Protection Alliance – focused their comments on two aspects of the FCC’s Net Neutrality rulemaking:
- the agency’s proposal to use Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 to boost broadband deployment; and
- the Commission’s alternative proposal to reclassify information services as a regulated Title II, common carrier service, to ensure Internet openness.
According to the group, both regulatory proposals would harm both consumers and producers of telecommunications services.
If the FCC were to regulate the Internet using Section 706, the FCC Commissioners would claim for themselves unprecedented and open-ended control over the Internet, essentially allowing for the regulation of the entire Internet ecosystem, not just broadband providers as the Commission presently proposes. Moreover, “with no evidence of market failure or consumer harm, the need to use Section 706 to encourage broadband deployment remains unwarranted,” the group stated.
More disturbing than the FCC using this Section 706 authority would be the FCC’s alternative, far more radical proposal to reclassify information services as an FDR-era common carrier service — treating competitive Internet services as if they were an old-fashioned telephone monopoly. Expressing its opposition to this long-outdated regulatory approach, the group noted that “the very act of imposing Title II is a radical departure from clearly articulated Congressional and FCC policy, and is a clear departure from a hugely beneficial, 43-year deregulatory trajectory in U.S. communications policy.” Should the FCC opt for Title II regulations, it “will ‘break’ the Internet,” the group wrote. Instead of boosting broadband deployment, Title II would stifle core infrastructure investment, severing the “virtuous circle” of Internet innovation, and frustrating Congress’ deployment goals. Consequently, the group urged the Commission to soundly reject the proposal.
The Internet’s success has come through the lack of government regulation, not because of it. This was Congress’ plan. Because the FCC’s proposals apparently discard this policy, the group has urged the FCC to stand down and wait for “Congress to act expeditiously in expressing its understanding of the proper role of the FCC in regard to regulating the Internet.”
The group’s comments can be seen at http://internetfreedomcoalition.org.