Chairman Davis, Vice Chair Dumais, members of the Committee, my name is Gigi Sohn and I am a Distinguished Fellow at the Georgetown Law Institute for Technology Law and Policy and a Senior Fellow with the Benton Institute for Broadband and Society. I have been a public interest advocate for open, affordable and accessible communications networks for over 30 years. I was Counselor to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler from 2013-2016, and during that time, I helped the FCC adopt the 2015 Open Internet Order, which included the strongest ever network neutrality rules.
Current research suggests that low-income people can only afford to pay about $10 monthly for broadband. Anything more competes with other utility bills and the cost of food. Meeting the goal of universal connectivity and providing fixed broadband at about $10 per month requires a multi-pronged strategy - what my Benton colleague Jonathan Sallet calls an “Affordability Agenda.” It includes:
Moving backwards: consolidation, deregulation & lack of accountability in the US media and broadband industries
The US broadband and media industries are increasingly becoming consolidated, deregulated and freed of accountability, with little attention either from policymakers or the media. While Mexico is moving forward -- having recently developed new institutions and regulations intended to promote competition and accountability in telecommunications and media, the US is moving backwards. Competition in broadband and media in the US is vanishing as a result of decisions, big and small, by the Trump Administration.
Last week, ten state attorneys general filed a lawsuit challenging the merger of T-Mobile and Sprint in a federal district court in New York. While it might not seem unusual for state officials tasked with enforcing antitrust and consumer protection laws to seek to halt the 4-to-3 horizontal merger of two of the nation’s mobile wireless companies, that the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice did not join the lawsuit was extraordinary.
No matter who you voted for or what party you belong to, I think we can agree on one thing - access to high-speed broadband is one of the most important issues in the US today. In Congressional race after Congressional race, in Maine, Vermont, Virginia, Ohio, Tennessee, Colorado, Michigan, and New Mexico, just to name a few, voters said that broadband access was a top three issue, sometimes coming after health care and jobs, and other times, like in Vermont, coming in as the number one concern for voters.
I’ve spent just over 30 years working to ensure that all Americans benefit from accessible, affordable, and open communications networks that promote democratic values. But none of that would have been possible without Everett Parker’s accomplishments. As this audience knows well, Everett worked hand-in-hand with the Rev. Martin Luther King and the civil rights community to challenge the broadcast license of WLBT-TV, a Jackson, Mississippi, station that broadcast racist propaganda and refused to cover the civil rights movement.
Sohn set out recommendations to ensure that the Internet is accessible and affordable and that broadband Internet access service (BIAS) providers and online platforms are transparent about how they conduct their businesses. Affordable access to the Internet is rarely discussed in conversations about Internet openness. An open network is of limited value, however, if significant numbers of people cannot access it for cost or other reasons. In the United States, fully twenty percent of Americans are not connected to BIAS.
In my previous post, I highlighted four reasons why the U.S needs a unified policy framework for an open Internet ecosystem: 1) lack of competition/incentive and the ability to discriminate; 2) collection of and control over personal data; 3) lack of transparency; and 4) inadequacy of current laws and enforcement. Many of these problems can be addressed with targeted legislative and regulatory interventions.
[Analysis] In a new article for the Georgetown Law Technology Review, I seek to jumpstart a conversation about how to shape an Internet ecosystem that will serve the public interest. First, let me lay out the rationale for a new, unified policy framework for an open Internet: 1) Lack of Competition/Incentive and Ability to Discriminate, 2) Collection of and Control over Personal Data, 3) Lack of Transparency, and 4) Inadequacy of Current Laws and Enforcement.