-By Dave McClure, President and CEO of the US Internet Industry Association
As Congress adjourns for its August recess, and lawmakers head home to tout accomplishments and missed opportunities, host town halls, and explain their votes to constituents, one issue that cannot go overlooked is oppressive regulation of the Internet – or net neutrality.
It’s an issue that has been a priority at the Federal Communications Commission and has the full support of President Obama. “I will take a backseat to no one in my commitment to net neutrality,” he has said.
The problem is, net neutrality would be detrimental to Pennsylvania’s economy, and it would hurt businesses and consumers across the state. Yet many Democrats and the Obama Administration have embraced this policy, and we need your help in setting the record straight.
Communications companies have invested some $30 billion per year over the past five years to build broadband networks across the country. Since 2003, those investments have created 434,000 new jobs nationwide and helped swell Pennsylvania’s high-tech workforce to 216,000 jobs. Over the next five years, similar investment levels in broadband network deployment should yield more than half a million jobs.
That is one large bright spot in an otherwise dismal economic recovery in Pennsylvania, where unemployment is still over 9 percent after 226,000 jobs were shed since President Obama took office. A policy misstep like net neutrality could blot out broadband’s sunny spot on the jobs horizon.
Net neutrality regulations are a set of oppressive rules that would squelch broadband competition and, therefore, investment. Proponents say rules are needed to prevent one provider from discriminating against others’ content. The truth of the matter is that the Federal Communications Commission is already empowered to police such matters and enforce fair play among all. The commission, in these matters at least, has had a lot of free time on its hands since there’s only been one instance that could be construed as discrimination and it was quickly remedied by the FCC.
Case closed. Matter resolved. Existing regulations work. No additional rules, whether they be born of regulation or legislation, are needed.
During the recession, capital spending declined more than 18 percent. At the same time, telephone companies, cable companies and wireless operators investing in broadband infrastructure cut capital spending only 3 percent. This steady investing during the darkest economic period our nation has experienced since the Great Depression sustained hundreds of thousands of jobs.
Broadband also has the potential to create new efficiencies and new economic value, and the jobs that go with such gains. Consider the impact broadband and its applications have on other sectors of the economy, from hotels to manufacturing. As more sectors adopt broadband, the more they must, in turn, increase their own investments in computers, software and other technologies. Those investments also create new jobs. A recent study found that for every percentage point increase in broadband penetration, several hundred thousand more new jobs are produced. Broadband access has been rising by several percentage points per year.
Network neutrality rules would cloud this picture and deter new job growth by stifling the investments broadband providers have been consistently making in laying cable, fiber and DSL lines and making new connections via wireless and satellite-based broadband networks – all the hard work behind expansion of broadband penetration.
Limited government interference will result in maximum broadband investment, the highest number of sustainable jobs and the most new job creation. That’s a huge win for Pennsylvania’s consumers and businesses alike.
David McClure is the president & CEO of the US Internet Industry Association (www.usiia.org), of which the Pennsylvania Telephone Association is a member. David has testified before the Pennsylvania General Assembly on broadband issues. Founded in 1994, USIIA advocates effective public policy for the Internet and provides its members with essential business news, information, support and services.