Comments to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration on International Internet Policy Priorities for 2018 and Beyond

ITIF submitted comments in response to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s (NTIA) request for comment (RFC) on the administration’s international Internet policy priorities for 2018 and beyond. The comments identify foreign laws, policies, and court decisions that have unduly restricted the free flow of information online and negatively impacted U.S. companies and users. To address these barriers, the United States and other like-minded countries that value free trade and the free flow of data should set new, high-standard rules that protect data flows and other crucial facilitators of digital trade and data flows. The comments also argue that NTIA should urge other countries to balance their own national sovereignty with respect for the global nature of the Internet, proposing a framework for Internet policymaking that can guide this effort.

In addition, the comments urge the NTIA to advocate on behalf of the U.S. model of regulating consumer privacy—using a combination of light-touch regulation for most industries and additional sector-specific regulation for particularly sensitive information, such as health, financial, and education data—which has contributed to the flourishing digital economy. Indeed, this model of balanced and mostly innovation-friendly regulation is under attack from abroad and at home. On the international front, the European Union is pressuring the United States (and other countries) to adopt similar rules or risk its businesses losing access to the EU market. The NTIA should vocally oppose these types of unnecessarily strict data protection regulations in all relevant international forums it participates in, arguing that they are anti-innovation and do little to help consumer privacy compared to the more balanced U.S. approach. And domestically, California has passed a new data privacy law that could subvert the typical exchange of access to free online services in exchange for targeted online advertising. The NTIA, along with others at the Department of Commerce, should work with Congress to craft federal legislation that preempts burdensome state data protection laws and regulations, guarantees consumers opt-out notice and choice, and allows Internet companies to structure their business models as they choose.

Finally, the comments articulate several policy principles that the NTIA can look to and push for in pursuit of promoting innovation and investment in emerging technologies. The NTIA should embrace the innovation principle and engage in light-touch regulation for innovative technologies and business models until broader regulatory concerns appear. Similarly, NTIA should advocate that countries use regulatory enforcement to incentivize companies to protect consumers. The NTIA should also urge countries to adopt technology-neutral rules that neither favor nor disadvantage any particular technology to create a level playing field for innovation. Moreover, NTIA should advise that nations support standards development and data interoperability for emerging technologies.