Internet Rules Must Be Fair to All and Promote Dynamic Growth  

By at 12 March, 2019, 4:53 pm


By Karen Kerrigan-

It was a big day for policy discussion and debate on the digital economy in the nation’s capital on March 12.  Both the U.S. Senate and U.S. House hosted hearings on topics important to the growth of the digital economy. From the small business perspective, it is critical that these policies being pursued by Congress take into account the impact on entrepreneurship and the ability of small firms to innovate, compete and thrive in the global marketplace.

In the Senate, a Judiciary Committee hearing focused on privacy regulation. Hopefully the key message that Senators heard is that it is very important to strike the right balance between meaningful protection for consumers while at the same time supporting an environment that encourages innovation and small business growth.  SBE Council supports a federal regulatory framework that creates one-set-of-rules for all internet companies. This is especially important given movement in many states to create their own set of privacy rules, which could result in a patchwork of regulation from one state to the next. A fifty-state regulatory regime would be difficult, if not impossible, for small businesses to navigate and comply with.

SBE Council agrees with the insight shared by Tom Lee  – who leads a small business called Mapbox – who testified at the Senate hearing. In his written testimony, Lee stated:

“We believe that our nation’s privacy laws should be strong and that they should be unified: we favor a single national standard. Avoiding a patchwork of state rules will not only help smaller businesses like ours, but will give Americans assurances that don’t change when they cross a state border.”

Again, these rules must apply to all, and not single out certain sectors or specific companies.

Over in the U.S. House, the Energy and Commerce Committee, Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, hosted a hearing on net neutrality and the “Save the Internet Act,” legislation that would resurrect the radical, costly and outdated internet regulations imposed by President Obama’s Federal Communication Commission (FCC).  These onerous Title II rules favored by the previous FCC have been repealed thanks to the leadership of current FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. The “Save the Internet Act” would restore this misguided approach by applying excessive and discriminatory rules that would harm small ISPs while leaving out many big companies in the tech sector.

If you recall, supporters of Title II said the internet would implode if these rules were repealed. But as it turns out, the internet is getting faster and the digital divide is narrowing. This is all due to increased investment as a result of the fair regulatory approach advanced by the current FCC.

Now, some in Congress, want to “Save the Internet” by legislating the inappropriate and heavy-handed regulation of the previous Administration. Reinstating the previous FCC’s Title II order favors Big Tech to the detriment of consumers, small businesses and other companies.

In his written testimony for the hearing, Robert McDowell, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute and former FCC Commissioner, notes that during the same 15-year period that the net neutrality debate has raged, “the American Internet ecosphere has blossomed as the most powerful explosion of entrepreneurial brilliance in human history.”

The internet has changed dramatically since the start of the net neutrality debate 15 years ago, and net neutrality legislation and rules should reflect today’s reality.  SBE Council is supportive of federal legislation that enshrines the principles of an “open internet” but the rules must apply to everyone fairly, and not single out one group of companies.

A sound approach to internet neutrality through federal legislation would help to ensure consumers are protected, and provide consistent rules for everyone. The legislation would guarantee openness and transparency, and protect against unfair discrimination.

“Saving the Internet” and protecting consumer privacy must be bipartisan. Such an approach would advance common-sense rules that provide for the space and freedom for investment and innovation to flourish, and fairness throughout the entire ecosystem. This type of framework will allow entrepreneurs and small businesses to effectively compete, innovate and thrive.

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


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