The following is a guest blog post by Jorge Bauermeister:
News is breaking with claims that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is putting together a net neutrality proposal and plans to rush the item through as early as next month. This is raising eyebrows across the country – and bringing back an unwelcome feeling of uncertainty regarding the future of the Internet at a time when Americans rely on the growth and competition cultivated by our current broadband marketplace.
The timing is baffling on such a job-killing proposal– mere weeks have passed since an election cycle where, whether you agree with it or not, the American people sent a pretty clear message to Washington, so I have to wonder if the FCC was really listening.
Times continue to be tough for everyone and particularly for underserved minorities and those struggling to regain their footing in these challenging times. Yesterday, I saw a long line of people interviewing for a waiter position at my favorite pizza restaurant. It struck a chord and made our current economic plight more real than ever.
Right now Americans want to see two things: job creation and economic growth. The FCC’s proposed path will not help generate either. Broadband technology has proven to be a unique and unwavering source of opportunity in both of these areas, adding critical jobs – building infrastructure and allowing for new innovative technologies such as apps (visit http://vayabroqui.com for an excellent example) to come to the marketplace, as well as providing critical tools for small, large and start-up businesses. Broadband also has supported economic development when we really need it, particularly in the area of wireless technologies that play a key role in connecting minority and underserved communities. There has been a lot of success in broadband thanks to the current hands-off regulatory approach, after all, just look at how far we have come over the past decade technologically. The future has the potential to be even brighter; however, increased regulation won’t get us there.
Expanding net neutrality principles to include wireless services, as proposed by the FCC, would be a shortsighted move resulting in long-term and potentially damaging effects that this country doesn’t want and just can’t afford – now or ever. In light of this, it seems like the FCC would be better off using Chairman Waxman’s proposed legislation and nothing beyond, as a model for any regulatory action – his draft preserves the vibrant nature of the wireless industry and had diverse support on both sides of the aisle, as well as from both community and consumer groups and the FCC.
This most recent move to subject wireless to net neutrality rules is also contrary to the FCC’s own National Broadband Plan. The plan’s goals include connecting all Americans in order to stimulate economic growth, spur job creation, and boost our capabilities in education, healthcare, homeland security and more. Yet, the reality is that net neutrality regulation would lead to decreased broadband investment, undermining our progress to date and severely limiting our capabilities to do more in these important social and economic issues. Consumers do not win with net neutrality.
Americans have made their priority clear: Jobs. Getting the 9.6 percent of Americans currently unemployed back to work starts with the current flourishing sectors in this country, such as those based around broadband and the Internet. Now, it is up to our elected officials and policymakers to focus on these priorities and see them through – without wasting time. Anything contrary would be a disservice to the American people.
Jorge Bauermeister is a former Commissioner for the Puerto Rico Telecommunications Regulatory Board. During his 15 year career as a telecommunications attorney he chaired NARUC’s Consumer Affairs Committee and actively participated as part of the leadership of NARUC’s Telecommunications Committee and its Board of Directors. His experience in politics, industry and government service provides him with a unique perspective on issues impacting both consumers and industry alike.