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It’s About Time! Restoring Internet Freedom

December 18, 2017

There must have been a time, a moment, in each instance when freedom and liberty triumphed that the people exclaimed “Finally!” Today is such a day for internet freedom.

There must have been a time, a moment, in each instance when freedom and liberty triumphed that the people exclaimed “Finally!” Today is such a day for internet freedom. Consumers will again be able to choose their own internet adventure rather than having government dictate it to them. This morning the FCC made the move to look to the future, embrace innovation, and restore a free and open internet to consumers so that innovation, investment, opportunity and creativity can once again flourish.

The answer to whether the internet should be restricted by a decades-old law and be a regulated utility—a tangle of laws and regulations that brought us such celebrated innovations as an extra-long cord for the touch-tone phone receiver—has again been answered.

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Pai and Commissioners O’Reilly and Carr have all made clear that they would stand by American ingenuity and opportunity, bravely supporting an appropriate framework for promoting an open internet by empowering lawfully operating consumers.

Those Commissioners have clearly understood that for two decades the internet flourished and delivered great value to every citizen, before the Obama administration FCC hamstrung such opportunity by asserting its authority and applying heavy-handed control. They see that such opportunities have not been exhausted, that so much more is yet to come. They know it is not time to declare the defeat of American ingenuity. They also understand that service providers, network providers, must be allowed to manage their systems.

In a marked victory, the Federal Trade Commission, the federal privacy cop, will now return to the internet beat after being forced away for two years. Contrary to those who would intentionally stir discontent, consumers still have a blanket of protection if a service provider fails to live up to its promise. Beyond the FTC, such promises can be enforced by consumers themselves, states’ attorneys general and others.

Today’s move is by any objective analysis a win for the American people, but Congress still needs to address the issue. We cannot afford to risk the future of our health, communications, entertainment, work and education to those preferring social experiments above social success. Congress is the only entity that can instill the certainty and permanence of supportive public policy for all consumers, clearly defining the authority of the FCC and the breadth of enforcement it, or the FTC, has to enforce the principles of a free internet. Without legislation, today likely does not the end the issue because those who would restrict liberty will want to take the decision to court, to continue the uncertainty for their own ends.

But even with the FCC action alone we will see telecommunications investment increase because of the increased certainty, the return of consumer choice and an open field for the resurgence of innovation. Liberty, a free and open internet, will continue to bring great benefits to all.

Article Tags
InfoTech & Telecom
Author
Bartlett Cleland is the Managing Director of Madery Bridge Associates, public strategy firm specializing in public policy, thought leadership, advocacy, messaging, advertising, coalition building, strategic planning, and tactical advice for corporations,
bcleland@ipi.org @MaderyBridge