Time to Treat Broadband Like the Essential Service It Is

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Let’s stop ignoring the obvious: broadband internet access service is a public utility and needs to be regulated as one.

The back-and-forth war over net neutrality fought time and time again at the Federal Communications Commission must end. Make no mistake, ensuring an open internet is an important policy struggle, but the FCC’s failures reveal a deeper problem: how can we best regulate internet service supplied by Internet service providers (ISPs), which is NOT to be conflated with regulating the internet, as is so often the lament from the anti-net neutrality crowd. The current status quo cannot be allowed to stand and it will not increase more broadband access at an affordable price

A new Congress will be sworn in next January. It can settle this debate once and for all. We can no longer endure the seesawing classification debate at the FCC, the winner of which depends upon a Presidential election every four years. Therefore, legislation must be passed to grant the FCC new, clear authority to govern broadband service as a telecommunications service, an essential utility. Additionally, Congress must fund a massive internet infrastructure project to get broadband into the home of every American family. With Congressional funding and a new grant of authority and purpose at the FCC to treat broadband like the essential utility service that it is, the government can—and must—connect many more Americans to the internet and to each other.

[Jonathan Schwantes is a senior policy counsel in Consumers Reports’ Washington DC office where he focuses on telecommunications issues affecting consumers in the broadband, television, media, and wireless markets.]

Time to Treat Broadband Like the Essential Service It Is