FCC’s Official Net Neutrality Decision Coming This Week

On Thursday, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will decide whether to overturn the Obama-era net neutrality regulations that currently govern the internet. It is highly anticipated they will decide to return to the pre-2015 regulations.

Net neutrality implies an open internet environment that internet service providers should enable access to all content and applications regardless of the source, and without favoring or blocking particular products or web sites.

The 2015 net neutrality laws reclassified high-speed broadband as a public utility under Title II of the 1934 Communications Act rather than the 1996 Telecom Act. These regulations applied to both mobile and fixed broadband networks. The reclassification changed how government treats broadband service and gave the FCC increased controls over internet service providers.

The office of FCC Chairman Ajit Pai recently issued this Myth vs. Fact statement on returning to the pre-2015 regulations. One issue the public is concerned with is if internet providers would block or “throttle back” certain content to the public. Another is if content developers would pay internet providers for accelerated data transfer. The bigger issue is whether internet providers can operate their businesses as businesses rather than as a public utility. Data show that private investment in internet services has slowed under the post-2015 regulations.

The Indiana Chamber supports free-market competition in the delivery of advanced communications services. The competition in a free-market environment among industry service providers is consistent with providing choice to consumers and an adequate service of last resort in extended service areas.

The Chamber opposes any attempt to impose new regulations on broadband and other next-generation telecommunications services by the FCC, especially through the unilateral reclassification of such services under Title II of the Federal Communications Act.  The Indiana Chamber supports the U.S. Congress examining and deciding issues such as net neutrality. We believe that advanced communications and digital infrastructure are critical to long-term economic development. Since 2006, private companies have invested more than $1.5 billion in new broadband capacity in the state, expanding service to more than 100 Hoosier communities and creating 2,100 new jobs within the industry.

If the FCC rules to return to the pre-2015 regulations, it is expected that Congress will entertain legislation to promote some of the concepts of net neutrality and limit the ability to stifle content.

Spending in America: The Unfunny Story of Where Some of it is Going

In the recent debt deal, there was plenty of debate from pundits and voters about the need — or lack of need — for more taxation. But one thing almost everyone seemed to agree on — politicians included — was that the U.S. simply must start cutting its spending. The Heritage Foundation has an interesting post showing some places we could likely start:

Late-night comedian Conan O’Brien’s blog has a new post parodying Washington’s excessive spending. “Team Coco has found out why our government is so broke,” the blog explains, “They’ve been spending all our hard earned tax dollars on some pretty ridiculous programs.” The post contains a list of humorous fake programs and encourages readers submit their own.

But sadly, there’s no need to turn to a crack team of comedy writers to gin up examples of ridiculous government spending. Instead, one need only look to the shenanigans on Capitol Hill to find a list of absurd expenditures of taxpayer dollars. As Heritage has reported, in addition to long-term, substantive reforms, $343 billion of wasteful government spending could be cut immediately. And while Conan’s list is populated by a number of outlandish (but fake) programs, there are plenty of REAL government programs that are just as ridiculous. Conan, try these on for size:

  • Washington will spend $2.6 million training Chinese prostitutes to drink more responsibly on the job.
  • Because of overstaffing, the U.S. Postal Service selects 1,125 employees per day to sit in empty rooms. They are not allowed to work, read, play cards, watch television, or do anything. This costs $50 million annually.
  • Stimulus dollars have been spent on mascot costumes, electric golf carts, and a university study examining how much alcohol college freshmen women require before agreeing to casual sex.
  • Washington will spend $615,175 on an archive honoring the Grateful Dead.
  • The Securities and Exchange Commission spent $3.9 million rearranging desks and offices at its Washington, D.C., headquarters.
  • Congress recently gave Alaska Airlines $500,000 to paint a Chinook salmon on a Boeing 737.
  • Washington spends $25 billion annually maintaining unused or vacant federal properties.
  • The Federal Communications Commission spent $350,000 to sponsor NASCAR driver David Gilliland.
  • Washington has spent $3 billion re-sanding beaches—even as this new sand washes back into the ocean.
  • Taxpayers are funding paintings of high-ranking government officials at a cost of up to $50,000 apiece.
  • The Conservation Reserve program pays farmers $2 billion annually not to farm their land.

And the list goes on and on. When it comes to government spending, the truth is often stranger than fiction.

Broadband Buildout: Public or Private?

Australia has an intriguing plan to build a state-of-the-art broadband fiber network covering most of the nation. A public-private investment of $33 billion over eight years would reach 90% of homes and businesses, with wireless and satellite technology used to access the remaining 10%.

A senior adviser to President Obama is reportedly a big fan of the idea. Susan Crawford, a member of the National Economic Council, noted in a recent policy forum that Singapore is making a similar investment and that plans are being considered in Britain and the Netherlands.

The Federal Communications Commission is to present a national broadband strategy to Congress by early next year. A public network in the U.S. would equal the $33 billion in Australia — and an estimated $400 billion more.

Benefits: increased access and lower monthly rates. Pitfalls: another huge tax increase to pay for the project and a potential decline in private sector investment — decreasing competition in the long run.

In local communities, there are a few stories of public ownership success, but more examples of failures. Increasing access is critical, but at what cost? With government already on a spending spree, a better alternative would seem to be to make it easier for enhanced private sector investment.

You Want My Money to Do What?

What’s going on in Washington these days? In four simple words — money is being spent. (Some would add "at the expense of our future," but we’ll leave that discussion for another time.)

Since there is such a spending frenzy, maybe Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin thinks no one will notice as he tries to add a few billions to the tab in the Fair Elections Now Act. Who will benefit from this economic rescue, bailout or stimulus plan? It’s Durbin and his colleagues. He (representatives John Larson of Connecticut and Walter B. Jones Jr. of North Carolina deserve their spotlight in the Hall of Shame for introducing similar legislation in their chamber) wants mandatory use of public resources (taxpayer dollars) to fund congressional campaigns.

Why is this a bad idea? Just a few of the many reasons:

  • The presidential check-off system on tax returns never worked (it was voluntary; maybe that’s why Durbin wants to take your money without giving you a choice)
  • Durbin wants to tax government contractors, putting them in a position of having to fund political candidates with whom they might be vigourously opposed. Never mind that little item called the First Amendment
  • The House version calls for taking proceeds from Federal Communications Commission sales. This limited funding source is now being used to help reduce the ballooning federal deficit — a far more worthy cause
  • Elimination of the need to have at least some good, solid ideas in order to attract local, private sector funding. Instead, under these plans, meet some minimal fundraising requirements and the public coffers are open for your use — or abuse

I could go on. The Heritage Foundation does in a strong rebuttal. But it’s bills like this that unfortunately make so many people have so little confidence in our elected leaders. What are they thinking?

Should Government be in Charge of Cleaning Internet Pipes?

Is your Internet running slowly due to all the video content and advanced applications straining your provider? Does it have you angrier than a surly fishgator? Well calm down, fella. The government might be here to help.

But is that a good thing? The Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council says they’d rather let the private sector handle this one.

Robert McDowell:

"If we choose regulation over collaboration, we will be setting a precedent by thrusting politicians and bureaucrats into engineering decisions. Another concern is that as an institution, the FCC is incapable of deciding any issue in the nanoseconds that make up Internet time. And asking government to make these decisions could mean that every few years the ground rules would change based on election results. The Internet might grind to a halt in such a climate. It would certainly die of clogged arteries if network owners had to seek government permission before serving their customers by managing surges of information flow."