Outgoing FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler pushed for progress rather than regressive efforts that would “retreat and take things away” from the American people in his last address.
Speaking at The Aspen Institute on Friday, Wheeler acknowledged indications that the incoming administration would try to undo several of the signature rules passed during his tenure and honed in on the importance of keeping existing regulations and protections in place. In particular, Wheeler singled out the Commission’s Open Internet Order, noting its reversal could impair the country’s economic growth.
Speaking about freshly developed next-generation technologies he’s seen, Wheeler noted “they don’t happen without network connectivity.”
“They all have developed on the assumption that connectivity will be fast, fair and open – and today that assumption is guaranteed by the comprehensive, continuing, and consistent protection of the Open Internet rule,” Wheeler said. “To take those protections away at the request of a handful of ISPs threatens any innovation that requires connectedness and with it the productivity gains, job creation, and international competitiveness required for American economic growth.”
To back up his argument, Wheeler pointed to the FCC Telecommunications Bureau’s recent finding that AT&T and Verizon’s sponsored data services prioritize their own content in violation of net neutrality rules.
“We have already seen how AT&T and Verizon have favored their own video services by zero-rating their product while forcing consumers to pay data charges for competitors,” he observed. “Just take that behavior and look how it would affect other 21st century services.”
Similarly, Wheeler highlighted the benefits of reclassification under Title II by noting the uptick in interconnection agreements and decline in interconnection pricing that followed the ruling. Wheeler insisted that result was important because it “shows how the Open Internet order is successful simply by being watchful … The simple fact that the FCC was the referee on the field ready to act if necessary has meant the game has been played fairly.”
According to Wheeler, those looking to repeal the order won’t find the proceedings to be a “slam dunk,” but instead will have to prove under the Administrative Procedure Act, that “so much has changed in just two short years that a reversal is justified.” Instead of trying to fight regulations already in place, Wheeler said the incoming administration should focus on moving forward.
“Access to the high-speed broadband network is what the new economy is built on, and it must not be taken away,” Wheeler stressed. “Together, we’ve made so much progress. The activities of the last three-plus years – from E-Rate, to Lifeline, to rural broadband; from spectrum availability to 5G; from cyber protection to privacy and an open Internet – are the law of the land. We must not forget that the proposals being floated to change what has been done would take away benefits Americans now enjoy.”
“It is time to keep moving forward. This is not the time to retreat and take things away. Vigilance to protect that which Americans now enjoy must be our watchword.”
Filed Under: Industry regulations