USTelecom supports the right of all consumers to access the legal content of their choice on the Internet.
USTelecom supports an open Internet — one that is open to innovation and investment and that allows consumers the ability to access any legal content they wish. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has attempted several times to mandate rules addressing these issues, but encountered numerous legal obstacles due to the limited grant of authority in existing law over broadband Internet access. The FCC’s most recent rules impose public utility regulation on broadband Internet access service. USTelecom, concerned about the devastating impact the rules will have on Internet freedom, innovation and investment, is among numerous entities to file legal challenges. This issue will take several years to resolve.
Since the 1996 Telecom Act, the Internet has been subject to only light-touch regulation. In 2005, the FCC adopted four principles governing the Internet, which were strongly supported by USTelecom and its members. The principles outline a consumer bill of rights, saying consumers are entitled to:
- Access lawful Internet content of their choice
- Run applications and use the services of their choice, subject to the needs of law enforcement
- Connect their choice of legal devices that do not harm the network
- Competition among network providers, application and service providers, and content providers
The light-touch regulatory approach was a major factor in the explosion of innovation and investment in the Internet marketplace, leading to such success stories as eBay, Google, Amazon, Skype and huge increases in Internet infrastructure.
In 2010, the FCC released its Open Internet Order. The order embodies four core principles that apply to broadband service providers with some exceptions for mobile providers:
- no blocking
- no unreasonable discrimination
- reasonable network management
These rules took effect on Nov. 20, 2011. On Jan. 14, 2014, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia struck down the anti-discrimination and anti-blocking rules in the FCC’s Open Internet Order, while upholding transparency rules and indicating that Section 706 of the Telecom Act grants the FCC authority over broadband infrastructure. The court remanded the case back to the commission for further proceedings.
The FCC adopted new rules that took effect June 12, 2015, reclassifying broadband Internet access service as a public utility under Title II regulation, an approach that has significant long-term negative consequences for broadband investment and innovation. USTelecom and numerous other entities are challenging these rules in court.
USTelecom fully supports a broad public inquiry on how best to maintain and improve an open and transparent Internet, and our industry remains firmly committed to open Internet principles. But the Title II approach is ill-advised. The robust investment and rapid innovation that characterizes the Internet today exists precisely because prior Democratic and Republican FCC chairmen have recognized the importance of keeping 19th century regulation away from 21st century technology.
USTelecom members will continue to do their part to preserve an open Internet by providing consumers with access to the legal content they choose without blocking or impeding any legal Internet traffic, while continuing to invest in faster networks. The U.S. spends a larger portion of GDP on telecom investment than other large industrial nations, and has more overlapping facilities broadband competition than any comparable area in the world.