As the comment period comes to a close in the FCC’s latest review of Open Internet rules, consumers, ISPs, edge providers, and other stakeholders might feel like it is "Groundhog Day," with the same characters weighing in over and over on the same legal and policy issues that the FCC has considered again and again for a decade.
Fortunately, within all the legalese, sensible solutions appear to be in sight. While the record strongly supports that the FCC can and should classify broadband as an information service and preserve incentives for innovation, investment, and an open Internet, there is also significant and growing consensus that bipartisan legislation can and should provide a permanent resolution to the unhelpful game of regulatory ping pong and the endless Title II loop that have plagued all stakeholders since at least 2010.
For decades, the regulation for broadband as an information service enjoyed bipartisan support, helped drive a dynamic and flourishing Internet ecosystem, and protected a free and open Internet. As the record and our comments demonstrate in detail, a Title II framework for broadband Internet access service is not only an egregious misclassification, but also significantly stifles investment, harms consumers, and obstructs innovation.
Network engineers, consumers, industry, and the Supreme Court, all agree that broadband Internet access service goes far beyond just providing mere transmission. And, not only does Title II regulation mischaracterize broadband service, it suppresses American innovation. As we continue to wait for sensible open Internet protections, this regulatory uncertainty directly undercuts incentives to innovate and invest in broadband networks and can widen the digital divide. Several economists note estimates showing the loss of several billions of dollars in annual broadband investment.
It’s time to end this constant regulatory fluctuation and focus on protecting consumers and strengthening the American marketplace. As we’ve said before, and as both sides of the aisle have agreed, it’s time for Congress to enact bipartisan legislation that permanently establishes sensible and enforceable open Internet protections. However, until a permanent framework is in place, the FCC can and should ensure a durable backstop and maintain core open Internet protections through one or more of the options outlined in our comments and the comments of others.
To be clear – as we have said time and time again – Comcast is committed to an open Internet. We support permanent, strong, legally enforceable net neutrality rules. We will continue to not block, throttle, or discriminate against lawful content, no matter what the FCC does. We stand ready to work with policymakers, legislators, and stakeholders to end this regulatory back-and-forth and craft an effective and enduring solution for consumers and the U.S. economy. Ping pong should be for players, not policy.