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Net Neutrality Future Remains Unclear; 171 Groups Ask FCC to Keep Rules

15 Mar, 2017 By: Doug McPherson

WASHINGTON – Lawmakers and regulators continue to fight over consumer protections and carrier’s claims of hindered investment related to net neutrality.

U.S. senators and Federal Communications Commission (FCC) members discussed the issue during the “Oversight of the Federal Communications Commission” hearing last week.

On the “keep it” side, Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) said fears that net neutrality rules are inhibiting service provider investments are a myth and cited how carriers collectively made large investments in network infrastructure between 2015 and 2016.

“The Census Bureau reported that the U.S. broadband and telecommunications industry spent over $87 billion in capital expenditures in 2015,” Markey said. “Meanwhile, last year almost half all venture capital funds went to invested in this country went toward internet-specific and software companies.”

Markey added the investments are proof there’s no need to revamp the rules. “We have hit the sweet spot. You want the innovation and also want the deployment of broadband so there’s no problem that needs fixing,” he said.

FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn agreed and added that she has not seen service providers dial back their network investments.

“All of the reputable figures I have seen say that investment is occurring,” Clyburn said. “According to SEC filings where you are to identify if there are any issues when it comes to a process or action, there’s no identification of the open internet being a negative when it comes to investment opportunities.”

On the anti-net neutrality side, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, whom President Trump recently nominated for a second five-year term to the FCC, has said he plans to either realign or kill the rules.

And many republicans have expressed their desire to overturn net neutrality. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) said the current net neutrality rules are a detriment to economic growth and job creation – two issues he says are his top priorities.

“In my view, the biggest regulatory threat to economic growth on the internet is the FCC’s open internet order,” Cruz said. “I believe regulating the internet as a Title II public utility is contrary to the text of the law and was an illegal power grab.”

Meanwhile, a coalition of 171 public interest groups has written to the FCC urging them to keep the rules. In the letter, groups including Public Knowledge, the ACLU, and Free Press argue the rules have massive public support.

An excerpt of the letter reads: “Protecting net neutrality is crucial to ensuring that the internet remains a central driver of economic growth and opportunity, job creation, education, free expression, and civic organizing for everyone.”

The groups scoffed broadband industry claims that the rules stifled broadband deployment.

“Since the order went into effect, broadband infrastructure investment is up, ISP revenues are at record highs, and businesses continue developing innovative ideas and offerings. A 2016 report found that the total capital expenditures of ISPs increased by 4 percent and that total revenues increased by 5 percent from 2014 to 2015,” the letter said.

About the Author: Doug McPherson

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