My Discovery Institute colleague George Gilder and I issued the following statement in support of FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s vision for smart Internet regulation:
Chairman Ajit Pai of the Federal Communications Commission is proposing to return the classification of broadband service from a Title II telecommunications service to a Title I information service, noting that capital expenditures by the the 12 largest Internet service providers declined 5.6% in the first two years under Title II.
Discovery Institute Senior Fellows George Gilder and Hance Haney welcome a restoration of broadband Internet access services to their rightful regulatory classification.
The FCC blundered in 2015 when it tried to nationalize and neutralize the net as a public utility under Title 2. This move ended the Commission’s highly successful previous policy of treating the Internet as a dynamic new frontier for innovation and growth. The Internet should not be seen as a static resource to be regulated and redistributed in a political sandbox for K street cronies and their clients. Relegating investment and innovation to often trivial software and apps, the FCC jeopardized the transformation of the network for a new era. It turned increasing bandwidth abundance into bandwidth scarcity in the face of a tsunami of new content and services. It threatened to neuter the Internet’s contribution to U.S. economic growth and world leadership. It drove bandwidth companies to invest in Hollywood content and TV rather than build out broadband for the future. It eclipsed the vast opportunities ahead in wireless innovation, mobile healthcare, virtual reality, transportation, and the Internet of Things.
A bipartisan consensus allowed the Internet to flourish in the absence of suffocating government regulation for three decades prior to the FCC’s ill-advised 2015 reclassification decision. That consensus arose from a recognition that innovation in telecom had been unsatisfactory under Title II. The result was the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which created a Title I “information” service classification for hybrid services combining both telecom and computing components. Plain old monopoly telephone services were to remain under Title II. Advanced new services such as Internet access were to be regulated under the more flexible Title I. The 1996 law passed the House 414–6, the Senate 91–6 and was signed by President Bill Clinton. The classification of broadband as a Title II public utility in 2015 was completely contrary to the intent of the law.