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The Issue

Three decades of U.S. telecom policy were reversed on February 26, 2015, when the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), by a 3–2 vote, reclassified broadband telecommunications as a public utility. If the decision survives the current court challenge, the FCC will have unprecedented power to regulate consumer and wholesale broadband pricing, quality of service, and service bundling.

Although the FCC assures it will “forbear” the full scope of regulatory powers it now has under Title II, it has assumed the authority to regulate content and applications, impose additional taxes and fees on services, and use its discretion to respond to any situation or practice where it believes competition, investment, free access, or the utility of the Internet is endangered.

Until now, the prevailing policy toward telecommunications and the Internet supported deregulation of voice services, light regulation of ISPs, and almost no regulation of Internet content and applications. Under this policy, Internet use has grown explosively; a 2014 report estimated 87 percent of U.S. adults regularly use the Internet, up from 79 percent in 2010 and 66 percent in 2005.

There are serious doubts this can continue in the regulated environment the FCC has imposed in recent years. Congress, as well as state and local governments, can resist this regulatory agenda by pursuing proven policies that have worked for years because they stimulate market forces and private industry initiative and respond to real customer needs and wants. The alternative is an Internet that runs at the government’s pace, where every innovation must be examined, evaluated, and approved by government bureaucrats before reaching the public.

Our Stance

Issues such as network neutrality, excessive telecom taxes, and municipal broadband have been matters of controversy for more than a decade. In recent years, widespread adoption of broadband and the general disruption of the digital economy have raised new policy issues. Governments at all levels are now debating privacy, Internet hate speech, and “sharing economy” services such as Uber and Airbnb, which offer tremendous convenience to consumers yet threaten established local businesses.

Featured Subtopics

City at night with streaks of light
The Internet has thrived due to its open and market-based nature. Imposing a vast new array of government regulations under Title II, like net neutrality, would stifle what has made the Internet one of the biggest growth sectors of the economy. To ensure the growth of our nation’s broadband infrastructure and the growth of the internet economy, any changes to how the internet and broadband is regulated needs to look away from outdated regulatory models and instead focus on policies which do not hinder innovation and growth.
Keyboard with the word privacy on it
Broadband development across the United States has been robust, creating wide internet availability at affordable prices. The market based system does not need reform; government control of the spectrum would undermine what has been a very successful system.
Man holding tablet with wi-fi symbol
Broadband development across the United States has been robust, creating wide internet availability at affordable prices. The market based system does not need reform; government control of the spectrum would undermine what has been a very successful system.

Additional Subtopics

  • Antitrust
  • Broadband
  • Cable
  • Censorship
  • Cloud Computing
  • Copyright
  • Encryption
  • Internet
  • Municipal Overbuild
  • Regulation
  • Security
  • Streaming
  • Taxes
  • Universal Service
  • VOIP
  • Wireless

Videos

Title: In the Tank Podcast, Ep 293: Facebook’s Trump Ban, FDA’s Menthol Ban, and the Nanny State
Description: The Heartland Institute's Donald Kendal, Jim Lakely, Cameron Sholty, and Chris Talgo present episode 293 of the In the Tank Podcast. The ITT crew revisits the topic of anti-conservative censorship on social media in light of the recent news of Facebook’s decision to continue to ban President Donald Trump. Afterwards, they discuss the recently announced ban on menthol cigarettes and why the government is allowed to act as a “nanny state.” ITTe245 - John Samples Interview https://youtu.be/LnmnlPn0p4M SOCIAL MEDIA BIAS Facebook Oversight Board Upholds Trump Ban, Calls for Further ‘Reexamination’ to Determine Final Penalty https://www.nationalreview.com/news/facebook-upholds-trump-ban-calls-for-further-reexamination-to-determine-final-penalty/ FB Oversight Board – Case decision 2021-001-FB-FBR https://oversightboard.com/decision/FB-691QAMHJ/ MENTHOL BAN / NANNY STATE Heartland Institute – Policy Tip Sheet: Tobacco Harm Reduction 101: Menthol Bans https://www.heartland.org/publications-resources/publications/policy-tip-sheet-tobacco-harm-reduction-101-menthol-bans Cato – Are Prohibitionists About to Revisit the Law of Unintended Consequences - This Time With Tobacco? https://www.cato.org/blog/are-prohibitionists-about-revisit-law-unintended-consequences-time-tobacco FEE – Why Is the Nanny State so Popular? https://fee.org/articles/why-is-the-nanny-state-so-popular/ Gov.uk – New obesity strategy unveiled as country urged to lose weight to beat coronavirus and protect the NHS https://www.gov.uk/government/news/new-obesity-strategy-unveiled-as-country-urged-to-lose-weight-to-beat-coronavirus-covid-19-and-protect-the-nhs

Infotech & Telecom Experts Team

The Heartland Institute's experts on information technology and telecommunications issues are available for legislative testimony, speaking engagements, and media interviews.

Staff & Fellows Policy Experts

Steven Titch
Independent Policy Analyst
Steven Titch is a policy analyst focusing on telecommunications, Internet and information technology. He is also a policy advisor to The Heartland Institute.