ITIF President Robert Atkinson Testifies on “The Uncertain Future of the Internet”

February 25, 2015

 

ITIF recommends a network policy for the 21st century that recognizes the Internet is not inherently “neutral” and that while some forms of traffic differentiation can be anti-consumer or stifle innovation, others forms can enable innovative new services. This approach also recognizes the need for innovation and investment not just at “the edge” among content and application developers, but also within the network itself. A balanced set of regulations and ongoing oversight is appropriate to both allow innovation and consumer-welfare enhancing network prioritization while at the same time policing commercially unreasonable and anti-competitive conduct. 
The time has come to clarify the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) jurisdiction and give it the tools of precision it needs to ensure the Internet—at both the core and the edge—continues to be the fount of innovation and creativity we enjoy today. Unfortunately, the FCC is poised to redirect its broadest and most powerful provisions, Title II, to regulate broadband. Where we need a scalpel, the FCC is picking up a sledgehammer.
Happily, there is broad agreement on the high-level principles of network policy, and Congress can easily bring closure to this debate. A legislative solution should first and foremost clarify the FCC’s jurisdiction and offer it an alternative to Title II. This alone will foreclose years of legal and regulatory uncertainty. Furthermore, legislation should recognize the need for balance in providing the tools needed to ensure the Internet continues to thrive and evolve. Our goal ten years from now should be a better, smarter network than the one we have today—one that supports a rich diversity of applications, not one that delivers all Internet traffic with exactly the same performance.

ITIF recommends a network policy for the 21st century that recognizes the Internet is not inherently “neutral” and that while some forms of traffic differentiation can be anti-consumer or stifle innovation, others forms can enable innovative new services. This approach also recognizes the need for innovation and investment not just at “the edge” among content and application developers, but also within the network itself. A balanced set of regulations and ongoing oversight is appropriate to both allow innovation and consumer-welfare enhancing network prioritization while at the same time policing commercially unreasonable and anti-competitive conduct.
 
The time has come to clarify the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) jurisdiction and give it the tools of precision it needs to ensure the Internet—at both the core and the edge—continues to be the fount of innovation and creativity we enjoy today. Unfortunately, the FCC is poised to redirect its broadest and most powerful provisions, Title II, to regulate broadband. Where we need a scalpel, the FCC is picking up a sledgehammer.

Happily, there is broad agreement on the high-level principles of network policy, and Congress can easily bring closure to this debate. A legislative solution should first and foremost clarify the FCC’s jurisdiction and offer it an alternative to Title II. This alone will foreclose years of legal and regulatory uncertainty. Furthermore, legislation should recognize the need for balance in providing the tools needed to ensure the Internet continues to thrive and evolve. Our goal ten years from now should be a better, smarter network than the one we have today—one that supports a rich diversity of applications, not one that delivers all Internet traffic with exactly the same performance.