ITIF Calls for Bipartisan Telecom Legislation on Day of One-Sided Net Neutrality Vote

December 14, 2017

WASHINGTON—With the Federal Communications Commission voting today to disclaim virtually any oversight of broadband Internet access, the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) called for bipartisan legislation to bring some sanity to this overwrought debate. ITIF Senior Policy Analyst Doug Brake released the following statement:

Chairman Pai is right to pull broadband out from under the cloud of Title II’s heavy-handed regulation. The hyperbolic fearmongering leading up to this vote is simply not grounded in reality—the openness of the Internet never has been and is not now under threat.

But those on the right who think this “net neutrality lite” at the FTC is sustainable will have another thing coming if a Democrat is elected president. Democrats—right or wrong—don’t see antitrust as an effective safeguard, and this pendulum could very well swing back. Republicans should seek regulatory stability, even if at the cost of broader FCC authority than they would prefer.

Likewise, Democrats should recognize Title II, a law written in a different era for a static monopoly, is not a hill worth dying on. Legacy telecommunications laws don’t offer the balance needed for a dynamic platform like the Internet that encompasses not one application, but many, all with different needs from the network. With a legislative compromise Democrats could not only secure open Internet protections, but a laundry list of progressive goals that aren’t provided for under current law, such as rural broadband infrastructure, broadband adoption and digital literacy spending, prison phone reform, and ensuring robust subsidies for low-income broadband users.

For those of us trying to articulate good polices that preserve the open and dynamic character of the Internet—at both the edge and the core—while giving those throughout the entire Internet system the confidence to invest, the current debate is downright dismaying. Compromise should not be seen as betrayal of sacred principles, and cooler heads should prevail.