PROTECTING SMALL BUSINESS, PROMOTING ENTREPRENEURSHIP

The Internet’s Demise? Hardly. (In fact, it’s the very opposite)

By at 7 February, 2019, 4:32 pm

Small Business Insider

By Karen Kerrigan-

Proponents of excessive regulation of the internet will never give up. On February 7, the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee, Subcommittee on Communications and Technology hosted the hearing, “Preserving an Open Internet for Consumers, Small Businesses and Free Speech.”  The hearing offered a renewed chance for activists to dust off their tired claims of marketplace abuse that have never happened, along with a doomed existence for mankind if the internet is not excessively regulated like a public utility.

If you recall, the internet was supposed to explode when the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) repealed the intrusive regulatory framework for the broadband internet (Title II) on December 14, 2017. Of course, that did not happen.

If fact, speeds are getting faster, investment is stronger, 5G is upon us, 10G is in the works, and I am still able to post this blog on SBE Council’s website and share it via social media and on my mobile device.

Thankfully, the hearing provided private sector witnesses the opportunity to explain what is actually happening in the marketplace.

First, for those of you who never understood the details of the Obama-era net neutrality rules, Joseph Franell, CEO, Eastern Oregon Telecomm (EOT), LLC Chief Executive Officer of Eastern Oregon Telecom (EOT), a rural competitive telephone company and Internet service provider serving residents and businesses in Northeast Oregon, described them succinctly in his written testimony. The quick and easy primer is worth your review.

EOT is a small internet service provider (ISP) serving rural America. And, small telecommunications businesses like EOT would bear the heaviest burden and harm from these heavy-handed and unwarranted rules.

With the lifting of Title II regulations, Mr. Franell explained the benefits to his small company: increased investment, expansion opportunities to provide service to consumers currently not connected to the digital economy, upgrading service quality, and being able to more effectively compete in the marketplace. As he noted in his testimony:

“Since the repeal of Net Neutrality, investors have been much more willing and perhaps eager to invest in rural telecommunications. Additionally, my company has been able to focus on continuing to provide exceptional telecommunications and is currently expanding into other markets that are underserved. We do this with confidence because we don’t have to concern ourselves with unnecessary regulatory interference and the draining cost of reporting and compliance. We also have plans in years 2019/20 to significantly expand our infrastructure, serving many more underserved communities in our region.”

Michael K. Powell, president & CEO of NCTA – The Internet and Television Association, and former chairman of the FCC, also testified at the hearing. In his testimony, Mr. Powell shed light on the dynamic activity in network innovation and investment that has occurred with the lifting of Title II regulation.

Mr. Powell reminded committee members that private sector investment totaling $1.6 trillion dollars is responsible for bringing “internet services to 94 percent of American households.” Regurgitating heavy-handed Title II regulation would be a return to uncertainty for startups, small ISPs, consumers and investment in this critical sector.

Mr. Powell advocated for common-sense net neutrality rules fashioned in “a constructive bipartisan manner.”  Indeed, as SBE Council called for in a media release following the FCC’s vote to approve Chairman Ajit Pai’s “Restoring Internet Freedom” order on December 14, 2017:

“Now, we urge Congress to take the next steps and advance a legislative solution that embeds the principles of an open internet into law, which will bring much needed certainty and clarity for consumers, entrepreneurs and the marketplace. This will ensure that investment and innovation will continue to build and fuel a first-class Internet ecosystem for all Americans and the growth of the U.S. economy.”

That call still stands today. It’s time to move forward with practical ‘net neutrality’ legislation that provides flexibility and certainty, encourages investment, and allows innovators to bring their ideas and startups to the marketplace. In the end, this will produce a more dynamic and competitive marketplace for all consumers. SBE Council looks forward to supporting such a legislative effort in the near future.

Related content:

Intrusive Regulation of the Internet Will Harm (Not Help) Small Businesses and Access to Broadband, Small Business Insider Blog, August 2018.

Small Business Week and the Digital Economy: Internet Freedom is Fundamental to Entrepreneurship and Business Growth, Small Business Insider Blog, April 2018.

Four Reasons Why Restoring Internet Freedom is Good for Entrepreneurship and Small Business, Small Business Insider Blog, December 2017.

Karen Kerrigan is president & CEO of the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council.

 

 

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