Rep Mike Coffman Outlines a Net Neutrality Compromise
Remarks of Rep. Mike Coffman, Republican, Sixth District of Colorado
INCOMPAS Policy Summit
(as prepared for delivery)
Over the past several decades we have seen a tremendous amount of technological innovation that it almost seems like a science fiction movie. What started out as computers the size of your living room have become tools that sit on your desk.
Telephones have moved from being attached to the wall to being attached to your palm. We can’t even call them phones anymore – they are smart devices.
In the world of television, consumers no longer have to rely on big networks for their entertainment, they can utilize Wi-Fi to access a bewildering amount of content that is available at a time of their choosing, through a device of their choosing.
Today, we know that the Internet is no longer a novelty. It is a powerful tool and it can’t be overstated how large an impact it has on our economy and the innumerable benefits it brings to business and consumers alike.
So, what role do policymakers have in ensuring it remains open, vibrant, and innovative? It is indeed difficult. Technological innovation is occurring so rapidly that our laws cannot keep up. If we are to write laws, how do we strike the right balance between clear standards and flexibility so that innovation can continue to flourish?
Unfortunately, Congress has not engaged in a serious conversation about this since 1996 and instead has deferred to FCC regulators. Meanwhile, the FCC has swung at least four times between differing rules governing broadband service that have left both businesses and consumers confused.
The Internet is too important to leave to unelected bureaucrats. Frequent regulatory fluctuations are not good for Internet providers nor for those who rely on it for business or personal use. It is time for Congress to act!
Legislatively, we have a bill from Rep. Blackburn that is good, but I’d like to see it go a bit further. There is also a CRA that would reinstate the FCC’s 2015 order. However, the CRA is a non-starter for me as it defers again to agency rulemaking. This is Congress’ job!
That is why, I am crafting a “net neutrality” bill that will put in place common-sense “rules of the road” that will ensure the Internet is an open, competitive place for people to do business.
To those who provide the on-ramps to the Internet, my bill ensures that they will not: (1) block, (2) throttle, or (3) establish paid prioritization. It further requires ISPs to be transparent in their network management practices. In short, consumers are the ones who decide which websites or applications are best for them, not a third party.
My bill also moves past the old debate between Title One and Title Two. We don’t need to shoehorn the Internet into a heavy-handed Title Two regulatory regime. The Internet is too important, therefore my bill places “broadband internet access services” under its own, new title.
Now, the internet is very complex. Therefore, my bill gives ISPs the room they need to take reasonable measures to manage the effective flow of data across their portion of the network. I also ensure that the FCC maintains oversight of such practices to prevent abuses from occurring so that consumers have meaningful choices.
The Internet should be a place where all can participate – free from unnecessary barriers. In fact, the founding principle of the Internet holds that those who provide the on-ramps to the Internet, should not control what happens on the Internet. The network should be open so that we are not picking winners and losers.
I believe that my bill will provide some much-needed clarity in this area and I look forward discussing it further with you and my colleagues in Congress.