Congressional proposal offers Internet rules of the road

January 14, 2015

A photo-illustration shows an iPhone 5 next to a vintage mobile phone in Vodafone's Oxford Street store during an event to mark the 30th anniversary of the first mobile phone call in the UK, in central London

For the past decade, a debate has raged in Washington and across the country about the best way to protect an open, unfettered Internet. The increasing use of smartphones and web-connected products and services make finding the right answer more important than ever.

The House of Representatives and the Senate, working together, have come up with a working proposal. We plan to begin a public discussion of it this week.

We need unambiguous rules of the road that protect Internet users and can help spur job creation and economic growth. The rules we propose would prohibit blocking and throttling (the selective slowing of data), and also ensure that Internet service providers could not charge a premium to prioritize content delivery.

People pose with laptops in front of projection of Google logo in this picture illustration taken in Zenica

The Federal Communications Commission has limited ability to establish the kind of legally sound, pro-innovation rules that consumers and developers need. One ill-fitting tool available is Title II of the Communications Act — a set of rules conceived in the Franklin D. Roosevelt era for public utilities. Policymakers, however, need updated tools written for the Internet age.

Using Title II could result in billions of dollars in higher government fees and taxes on consumers’ monthly broadband bills, according to a Progressive Policy Institute report. It also could extend new regulations to areas like mobile broadband without recognizing the unique challenges that mobile carriers face.

One near-certainty is that this approach will perpetuate years of litigation and even more uncertainty for consumers and job creators.

Seeking a better way forward, we are working with our colleagues on both sides of the aisle to establish clear, updated and reasonable rules of the digital road to protect an open Internet.

Our nation’s current technology and telecommunications laws were meant for an era of rotary telephones, brick-sized cellular phones and expensive long-distance service. By acting legislatively, we can set aside the baggage and limits of an antiquated legal framework and work with the Federal Communications Commission to ensure the Internet remains the beacon of freedom and connectivity that defines America in the 21st century.

Twitter mobile accessibility engineer Sommer Panage demonstrates Twitter's accessibility feature in San Francisco

As a legislative body, Congress has far more flexibility than the commission to narrowly tailor rules appropriate for today’s digital ecosystem. Congress can establish clear protections for consumers that can make sure innovators are free from gatekeeper interference, without affecting incentives for robust private-sector investment.

By updating our communications laws for today’s online world, Congress can ensure the continued growth of our digital economy while preventing harmful government overreach.

In the coming days, we plan to pursue a public process to draft and enact bipartisan legislation that would protect the open Internet. We hope FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler and the public will join Congress in working to build and enact a shared set of principles that will protect Internet users, promote innovation, encourage investment — and withstand legal challenge.

We have made this an early priority of this Congress, demonstrating we can come together on a bipartisan basis to protect the vitality of the Internet — now so indispensable to our economy and way of life. Enduring, long-term protections for our digital freedoms are something we should all support.

 

PHOTO (TOP): A photo-illustration shows an iPhone 5 next to a vintage mobile phone in Vodafone’s Oxford Street store during an event to mark the 30th anniversary of the first mobile phone call in Britain, in central London, December 10, 2014. REUTERS/Andrew Winning

PHOTO (INSERT 1): People are silhouetted as they pose with laptops in front of a screen projected with a Google logo, in this picture illustration taken in Zenica, October 29, 2014. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic

PHOTO (INSERT 2): The Twitter Accessibility Team’s Twitter page is seen on mobile accessibility engineer Sommer Panage’s phone at the company’s headquarters in San Francisco, California, June 30, 2014. REUTERS/Stephen Lam

 

17 comments

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This republican legislature will do what republicans do best. They will figure out how to punish the sinners as defined by the Christian right and feed more money from the tax payers to the billionaires. I have no idea how they will do this, but that is always the result of their actions.

Posted by brotherkenny4 | Report as abusive

Politicians stay out of this! These overly massive corporations don’t deserve any help from PUPLIC FIGURES that don’t know the internet from a hole in the wall.

Posted by kea808 | Report as abusive

Thanks, but no thanks. Title II will work fine. These Internet Service Providers are nothing but the tubes our data goes through. Anything short of Tittle II, is proof that you’re just pandering to big telecom–that congress will sell us all out to appease those who “finance” their campaign. Proof they could care less for the Internet, innovation, Americans or humanity as a whole.

Posted by Rapajez | Report as abusive

No details, just a lot of empty words. Two Republicans who actually think corporations are more important than people. There will be no consumer protections from these two. There will be corporate protection.

Posted by davidhoffman5 | Report as abusive

This is nothing but a ham-handed, desperate attempt by the ISPs to stop the momentum toward properly reclassifying broadband as what it obviously is: a telecommunications utility which we depend on.
The recent Comcast-Netflix peering agreement is a perfect example of why Title II regulation is necessary: during peering negotiations, Comcast deliberately throttled Netflix customers’ traffic, causing Netflix users to have a very poor experience. This is extortion pure and simple: when we pay for x amount of throughput, that’s what we should get. The ISPs must not be allowed to create a multi-tiered system.

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