Coalition Urges FCC Chairman to Maintain Bipartisan Consensus Against Title II
Today, a diverse coalition of web entrepreneurs, investors, telecom and antitrust experts, and policy organizations wrote to FCC Chairman Thomas Wheeler urging him not to impose common carrier or public utility-style regulations on the Internet through Title II of the Communications Act. The letter also presents to the FCC a grassroots petition hosted at DontBreakThe.Net.
Led by TechFreedom and the International Center for Law & Economics, the coalition includes, among others, VoIP pioneer Jeff Pulver, venture capitalist Scott Banister, former FCC Commissioner Glen Robinson, leading legal scholar Richard Epstein, and a range of academics.
The coalition letter opens:
Attempting to retrofit the onerous set of regulations developed for the monopoly telephony network onto the Internet would be a disaster for Internet users everywhere. That’s why it has been rejected by four FCC Chairmen (of both parties), leading Democratic Senators as early as 1998, 74 House Democrats as late as 2010, all Congressional Republicans, and the entire broadband industry.
Government should be able to police any deals between broadband companies and content providers to make sure they don’t harm consumers or competition. But the FCC doesn’t need Title II to do that. The FCC has already claimed vast authority under Section 706, including the power to issue new net neutrality rules.
The letter debunks critical misconceptions about Title II. Highlights of the letter include:
- Bipartisan Consensus: “Every previous FCC Chairman, regardless of party affiliation, has attempted to protect Internet services from common carriage regulation…. We urge you to maintain the bipartisan consensus against Title II.”
- Scope of Title II: “Innovative web companies would not be safe from Title II.”
- Effect of Title II: “Title II won’t actually do what those pushing it claim: Title II would not ban ‘paid prioritization…’ If anything, Title II would probably make paid prioritization more likely.”
- Unintended Consequences: “Title II is a Trojan Horse for far more than net neutrality.”
- Forbearance: “Proponents acknowledge the problems with Title II, but say the FCC can waive them away through ‘forbearance.’ Forbearance is an illusion.”
- Call for Legislation: You should … propose legislation that once and for all resolves questions regarding the FCC’s authority over broadband with clear, specific language focused on core net neutrality concerns. We recommend that such legislation should forever bar application of Title II to the Internet, narrowly focus Section 706, and remove barriers to deployment at all levels of government.”
- Focus on Unleashing Competition: “Government should make it as easy as possible for the private sector to build broadband networks, both to upgrade existing networks and to build new networks. Far from encouraging competition, Title II would choke it.”
Bureaucrats, not markets, would decide “just and reasonable” prices and terms for Internet access, as they did for railroads and Ma Bell. Today’s permissionless Internet would come to an end, and business and technology innovations would require prior approval from regulators.
Converting the Internet into a utility would mean years of litigation and regulatory uncertainty, reducing investment in broadband.
Visit DontBreakThe.Net to read about or join the campaign. The website directs comments to the FCC and debunks several myths about the benefits of a government takeover of the Internet.
- TechFreedom and ICLE’s legal and policy comments to the FCC on Net Neutrality (and highlights of both)
- “Understanding Net(flix) Neutrality,” an op-ed by Geoffrey Manne in the Detroit News on Netflix’s strategy to confuse interconnection costs with neutrality issues
- “The Feds Lost on Net Neutrality, But Won Control of the Internet,” an op-ed by Berin Szoka and Geoffrey Manne in Wired.com
- “Dear Chairman Wheeler, Don’t Break The Net!”, TechFreedom statement on launch of DontBreakThe.Net
- “That startup investors’ letter on net neutrality is a revealing look at what the debate is really about,” a post by Geoffrey Manne in Truth on the Market
- “Bipartisan Consensus: Rewrite of ‘96 Telecom Act is Long Overdue,” a post on TF’s blog highlighting the key points from TechFreedom and ICLE’s joint comments on updating the Communications Act