Society and Culture, Media and Technology

The Open Internet Preservation bill is counter-productive

Image Credit: Shutterstock

Image Credit: Shutterstock

Today, Representatives Henry Waxman (D, CA) and Anna Eshoo (D, CA) introduced H.R. 3982, the Open Internet Preservation Act, to reverse the DC Circuit Court’s order vacating the FCC’s Open Internet Order (OIO). The bill is a symbolic measure that has no realistic chance of passing the House. The bill simply raises a flag and rallies the troops.

As a policy measure, the bill is wholly unnecessary. During the two years the OIO was in effect, there were no formal complaints to the FCC regarding potential violations. The one OIO issue that was raised with the FCC – an informal inquiry concerning terms of service for Google’s Kansas City network – was dismissed for lack of standing.

Furthermore, mobile networks have always been exempt from most of the OIO rules by design. While both wired and mobile networks have continued to progress in terms of capacity and overall service quality, the exempt mobile networks have actually advanced more rapidly. There is no reason to believe that the Internet is in danger of collapse without immediate Congressional action.

We appreciate the energy and enthusiasm shown by the sponsors of H. R. 3982, but we would encourage them to focus on the conditions that led the court to vacate the FCC’s rules. Congress has not provided the FCC with clear guidance regarding Internet policy, and this lack of direction has forced the agency to improvise both in regards to policy and jurisdiction.

The Internet is in no immediate crisis; there is, however, increasing friction between the silos model of regulation in the Communications Act and the nature of the Internet ecosystem. Pretending that the Internet is no different from the traditional telephone network will not resolve this problem. The Communications Act is past due for revision.

Rather than writing symbolic bills to address hypothetical problems, Congress should develop a holistic vision of the Internet. The new Communications Act must recognize that the Internet is not a finished product. We will see the rise of new services that require specialized support from broadband networks, and we will see new business models developing.

Insisting on stagnation in the essential infrastructure of the Internet is no way to promote innovation and the public interest. The Internet of the future will necessarily be different from the Internet of the past, and it is vital that the entire Internet must be free to experiment, advance and evolve.

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