Months after the FCC’s 3-2 party line vote to regulate the Internet as a public utility, the debate over Internet regulation is far from over. In fact, as strange as it sounds after all these months of debate, we’ve only just begun. As an engineer with more than 25 years of experience in communications technology, I am a strong supporter of the open Internet. But the FCC’s approach to preserving the open Internet through Title II regulation is not only misguided, it is harmful and we will need Congressional action to remedy this unwise decision.
The Internet has had the underpinnings of an open Internet architecture since its inception. In fact, the bipartisan decisions brought about by the Clinton administration’s leadership that ensured the wise light-touch broadband policy is what helped the Internet flourish. Now, the FCC has reversed this hugely successful policy of Internet innovation and replaced it with pervasive, cumbersome regulation designed for a monopoly telephone company back during the Depression. Inhibiting the progress of Internet technology in today’s competitive marketplace with this bureaucratic regulation is an unconscionable disservice to all Americans, and a particularly mean blow to Latinos and other minorities who benefit the most from new technology to access the Internet.
A study released by the Pew Research Center earlier this month estimated that 7% of Americans now rely on their smartphone as their only readily available option to access the Internet. These consumers “have neither traditional broadband service at home, nor easily available alternatives for going online other than their smartphone.” Additionally, the study found that Latino consumers were more smartphone dependent (13%) than African American (12%) and White (4%) consumers.
Thanks to high-speed Internet connections, America’s minority groups are better able to access Internet-based applications and services that offer better education opportunities, opportunities to find more rewarding jobs, and the ability to enjoy greater involvement in their communities. And we have only begun to scratch the surface of what high-speed Internet services can deliver in the future.
All this evidence – and there’s plenty more – shows a rapidly evolving and improving Internet ecosystem. So why is the FCC intent on stopping this progress by deciding – against both evidence and logic – to regulate the Internet with Title II rules that will suffocate the very innovation that has made high-speed Internet vital to Latinos and other consumers?
LISTA believes that the FCC should have loftier goals than micromanaging an already successful industry. Their real efforts should include ensuring more and better high-speed connections for minorities, seniors, and low-income families who do not have high-speed Internet access. The Commission should make it a priority to adopt Internet policies, or refrain from adopting unwise policies, that can help ensure all consumers can compete on a level playing field throughout the 21st Century.
Congress embraced that priority when it passed The Communications Act of 1996 during President Clinton’s administration. This decision has been upheld by multiple administrations since and reaffirmed by both the FCC and the courts time and time again. With the FCC’s recent rejection of what has made the Internet work, it’s clearly time for Congress to take action again.
The Internet requires a modern approach, designed for tomorrow’s technology, that helps spur faster, more accessible service. The idea of placing new fiber optic and 4G technologies under the rule of 1930s regulation is nonsensical. The FCC’s action is already leading to what we know will be protracted legal battles that will undercut engineers’ abilities to create new technologies. It’s time for Congress to step in with set of rules that will create certainty and an incentive for faster, better Internet access for everyone.
Jose Marquez is National CEO and President, TechLatino: Latinos in Information Sciences and Technology Association based in New York, Washington, DC and Atlanta.
LISTA Mission: TechLatino- Latinos in Information Sciences and Technology Association (LISTA) is committed to supporting Latinos who work in the science, mathematics, information sciences, new media, telecommunications, and technology sector. Our mission is to motivate, educate and to empower the next generation of Latino Tech entrepreneurs, CEO’s and CIOs, and Tech business owners.