Today, some Democrats are urging the FCC to regulate broadband as a public utility. But back in 1998, Democratic Senators John Kerry and Ron Wyden joined three Republican Senators to tell the FCC the exact opposite:
The overarching policy goal of the 1996 Act is to promote a market-driven, robustly competitive environment for all communications services. Given that, we wish to make it clear that nothing in the 1996 Act or its legislative history suggests that Congress intended to alter the current classification of Internet and other information services or to expand traditional telephone regulation to new and advanced services…. Moreover were the FCC to reverse its prior conclusions and suddenly subject some or all information service providers to telephone regulation, it seriously would chill the growth and development of advanced services to the detriment of our economic and educational well-being.
It’s worth noting that 74 House Democrats opposed Title II when the FCC proposed it in 2010. These are just a few examples of two decades of bipartisan consensus around a few simple ideas:
- Hands off the Net: the less we regulate the Internet, at all levels, the better
- Communications regulation should focus on effects, not static silos of service
- Government should get out of the way of competition and investment
Fred Campbell has more on why Congress never intended to apply public utility regulations to the Internet in the 1996 Act. Also check out our recent comments on why it’s time to do what Clinton and Gore proposed twenty years ago, and what smart, pro-tech Republicans and Democrats have been trying to do ever since: write a communications act for the digital age.