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May 16, 2018

Ending the Net Neutrality Merry-Go-Round .

Ending the Net Neutrality Merry-Go-Round

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Kelly Cole
Senior Vice President, Government Affairs

Americans want to make sure their online content is safeguarded by both ISPs and internet companies and that the government ensures we can go online wherever and whenever we want. The Democrats’ push in the Senate for a Congressional Review Act resolution is a step in the wrong direction—focused on the past and only on ISPs, and that’s why we oppose it.

We hope Congress moves forward to establish permanent rules to protect Americans online and we pledge to work with our nation’s lawmakers to achieve that this year.

Why the CRA is the Wrong Move.

By a little known law known as the Congressional Review Act, the U.S. Senate is considering overturning a wise decision that the Federal Communications Commission made in December—a decision that itself reversed a Wheeler-era FCC decree to impose heavy-handed, monopoly-era regulations on your wireless experience.

The Congressional Review Act enables Congress to overturn recent federal regulations. Some want to use the CRA mechanism to play politics and reverse the 2017 FCC decision, which would return broadband to the onerous and unnecessary Title II regulations that harmed investment and innovation.

That would be unwise. Wireless providers don’t think net neutrality is a political football, and policymakers shouldn’t treat the issue like one either.

So instead of the misguided CRA, Congress should enact bipartisan net neutrality legislation. That’s the best way to put an end to the regulatory back-and-forth and permanently protect the principles of net neutrality for everyone.

This regulatory ping-pong is bad for consumers, bad for business, and should be resolved by federal legislation once-and-for-all to end this unnecessary uncertainty.

The Condensed Backstory.

In 2015, the prior FCC chose to reject twenty years of bipartisan consensus that the internet should be “unfettered by Federal or State regulation.”

In doing so, the agency imposed a burdensome regulatory framework—known as Title II—originally designed in the 19th century for railroads to America’s constantly innovating and dynamic mobile broadband market. The Wheeler-era FCC did so under the mistaken notion that this action would solve the issue of net neutrality.

One problem with that—there is no net neutrality issue. America’s wireless providers believe in net neutrality and are committed to delivering an open internet experience to all.

So not only was the prior FCC’s decision unnecessary—it was also harmful. CTIA’s annual survey showed a 17% drop in investment in 2016, the first full year under Title II regulations. In particular, that decline hurt rural communities—areas that often present challenging business cases already, with sparse populations over expansive distances and frequently difficult terrain.

A Return to Common Sense.

Last December, a new FCC freed the internet from these antiquated regulations, returning it to the light-touch framework that helped create America’s world-class mobile networks we all enjoy.

And of course the predictions of naysayers failed to materialize: our wireless experience remains open and fast, and we can access the content of our choosing when and how we want.

Under this framework, which started under President Bill Clinton and continued under Republican and Democratic Administrations, the U.S. wireless industry invested billions to bring high-speed wireless across the country.

In fact, the wireless industry invested over $200 billion to deploy 4G networks to 99.7% of the country in just seven years. That investment brought us all higher speeds (40-fold increase in the last decade) and falling prices.

Just as importantly, nearly every sector of the U.S. economy looks to our platform to innovate in a 21st century global marketplace. And for 21st century jobs, investment- and innovation-friendly regulations matter.

That’s why the FCC’s 2017 decision was the right call.

Congress Can—and Should—Act on Actual Net Neutrality Legislation.

We’ve long believed that the best way to promote openness, continued innovation, and world-leading wireless networks is through bipartisan legislation.

A federal law would also ensure that state broadband regulations do not contravene federal policies, undercut investment or slow wireless deployment. Crossing state lines doesn’t change your mobile experience. The laws governing that experience shouldn’t change either.

Congress should let the FCC’s 2017 decision—to return to the two-decade bipartisan consensus that made America’s networks the global leader in wireless—stand.

It was the right decision for consumers, for investment, and for innovation—and one that is enabling America’s wireless industry to fully turn its attention and capital investment to ensuring we lead the world in the next-generation of wireless.

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