Press Releases

ITIF Calls FCC Panel on Open Internet a "Missed Opportunity"

WASHINGTON - ITIF Senior Research Fellow Richard Bennett responded to the FCC's announcement of an advisory committee to consider issues related to Internet service with the following statement:

"The Open Internet Advisory Committee announced by the FCC last Friday is a missed opportunity. The Commission's controversial "Open Internet Report and Order" of December 2010 said the Open Internet Advisory Committee would be a "balanced and inclusive" group of experts who would advise the Commission on "technical standards and issues relating to mobile broadband and specialized services." While some members of the OIAC have the necessary expertise to perform this function, most do not.

In particular, the Commission has appointed Harvard law professor Jonathan Zittrain to chair the committee and determine its work program. Professor Zittrain is a provocative thinker and chronicler of the progress of online services in the U.S. from the dial-up era to the present. But it would be a mistake to regard him as either a technical expert or an analyst with a balanced and forward-looking point of view. Similarly, the committee membership is more heavily weighted toward legal and policy professionals than network technologists, economists, and investors. Network Service Providers are under-represented, its sole venture capitalist is a boutique East Coast investor rather than a major player from Sand Hill Road in Silicon Valley, and the Committee doesn't include any economists at all.

These omissions are important because they underscore the criticisms that the FCC's approach to Internet regulation has tended to ignore practical considerations in favor of costly and idealistic visions with little functional utility or consumer appeal. Rather than constituting a body from the Internet technical and business community to complement and broaden the Commission's expertise, it has created an entity that largely reflects the Commission's earlier findings and Order. As such, it's a missed opportunity to improve the Commission's understanding of the critical issues affecting Internet service and innovation in the U.S."