Tech Experts Want Congress To Overturn FCC Internet Regulations
April 30 will mark the commercial Internet’s 20th birthday, and some are calling on Congress to celebrate the occasion by overturning burdensome new regulations.
A group of “tech elders” — including Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and John Perry Barlow of the Grateful Dead — sent an open letter to Congress Thursday urging lawmakers to designate April 30 “Internet Independence Day” in recognition of the longstanding, bipartisan commitment to maintaining a light touch approach to regulating the Internet.
“This approach has also led to a thriving and open Internet that enables consumers to go where they want and do what they want online, and that provides a robust platform for innovation,” the letter claims, pointing out the “thousand fold improvement” in connection speeds, coupled with drastically reduced prices, that have accompanied the Internet’s rapid expansion since 1995.
However, the Federal Communications Commission recently issued a ruling that departs from that philosophy, deciding to reclassify the Internet under Title II of the Communications Act, a law written in 1934 to regulate telephone networks. (RELATED: FCC Votes in Favor of Net Neutrality)
Last year, President Obama threw his support behind the Title II approach, calling on the FCC to “implement the strongest possible rules to protect net neutrality,” the concept that internet service providers should not be allowed to either block legal content or prioritize certain types of content by charging fees for faster access speeds. The Democratic commissioners followed through in a 3-2 party line vote in February, and the new rules were published in the Federal Register Monday.
Critics, though, claim the FCC is exceeding its authority, and warn that Title II could open the door to price controls and other innovation-killing regulations. A better approach, they say, would be for Congress to pass legislation that accomplishes the goals of net neutrality without sacrificing the “permissionless innovation” that has characterized the Internet since its birth. (RELATED: The Consumer Costs of Net Neutrality)
“Recognizing ‘Internet Independence Day’,” the tech elders say, “provides an opportunity to initiate bi-partisan legislation that protects the open Internet while also preserving the private sector framework responsible for these accomplishments.”
Congressional Republicans launched an effort to do just that in January, proposing legislation that they say protects both consumers and innovators, obviating the need for Title II. Since then, other lawmakers have come out with similar proposals, but so far none have progressed beyond the committee stage. (RELATED: GOP Net Neutrality Bill Could Preempt Internet Regulation)
Daniel Berninger, the leader of the tech elders, told The Daily Caller News Foundation that the group is not endorsing any particular bill, saying simply that, “We support legislation that says the Internet is not a telephone network.”
Berninger noted that in order to apply Title II to the Internet, “the FCC had to officially decide that the Internet was a telephone network,” which he claims they accomplished by simply adding IP addresses to the definition of a public switched network. “It’s just insane,” he exclaimed, saying, “that’s just not how we should decide policy … by playing games with definitions like that.”
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