​Fixing a Broken Internet

May 4, 2017
by Congressman Bruce Westerman

For each of us, protecting our privacy and that of our families is a top priority. In the last several weeks, much has been said about a vote rolling back last minute changes to the regulation of the Internet. Opponents of our vote would have you believe that we are putting Americans’ privacy at risk. But the truth tells a far different story.

Prior to the Obama Administration tinkering with Internet regulation, the industry was able to grow and adapt unfettered while privacy was protected. This created competition among providers and allowed companies to either improve or possibly lose business to their competitors. In rural Arkansas cities like Lavaca, super fast Internet became available because of innovation spurred by competition.

But two years ago, the Federal Communications Commission with influence from the Obama Administration began regulating Internet service providers like they regulate water or electric utilities, a wholly unnecessary step that essentially created government control of cyberspace. In the two years since Title II was implemented, innovation has stalled, many rural Arkansas communities have been left out of reach of high speed Internet, and privacy has been at risk.

According to the FCC, since Title II’s passage, 22 different ISPs have notified the commission of their inability to continue innovating. Each of the providers serve less than 1,000 customers. “[Each] of us has slowed, if not halted, the development and deployment of innovative new offerings which would benefit our customers,” the service providers wrote.

Beyond the issue of innovation and competition, Title II also took a step backward for Internet privacy. Many may not realize, but the Federal Trade Commission has long been tasked with protecting the privacy of Internet customers and users. Title II stripped the FTC of that authority. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai recently met with members of the House and presented his plan to restore the FTC’s authority over Internet privacy. As he noted during our meeting, the FTC is the “nation’s premier consumer protection agency” and should maintain its previous oversight of Internet privacy in the digital age. I agree.

Not only is restoring FTC authority over Internet privacy important, but so is rolling back the other Title II regulations imposed by the Obama Administration. In his presentation, Chairman Pai noted what a rollback of Title II will accomplish for rural areas, like the Fourth Congressional District of Arkansas[1]:

  • It will spur broadband deployment throughout the country and thus bring better, faster Internet service to more Americans;
  • It will create jobs by putting Americans to work deploying broadband networks, creating the networks and online opportunities necessary for additional job growth and economic opportunity;
  • It will boost competition and choice in the broadband marketplace; and
  • It will restore Internet freedom by ending government micromanagement and returning to the bipartisan regulatory framework that worked well for decades.

I look forward to seeing Chairman Pai accomplish his goals at the FCC so competition can return to the Internet in Arkansas and across the nation.

[1] Language provided by the Federal Communications Commission.