House, Senate Hold Open Internet Hearings

BY Heather Greenfield
January 21, 2015

Washington — Open Internet supporters told House Energy and Commerce Committee members today they are concerned that draft legislation would block the FCC’s ability to protect consumers’ access to an open Internet. Congress long ago created the FCC as an expert agency to protect all Americans’ access to communications by wire and radio — regardless of specific technologies employed.

Several witnesses pointed out the bill offers good fairly general open Internet principles, but with no real enforcement capacity for the FCC. Chief executive of Etsy, Chad Dickerson, said the problem is that Congress’s solution doesn’t ban all types of unreasonable or anticompetitive discrimination.

Meanwhile, at the afternoon Senate Commerce hearing today, Senator Markey characterized the issue as an economic one because innovative companies like Etsy and Dwolla rely on open connectivity to raise capital for online businesses that rely on open connectivity.

The Computer & Communications Industry Association supports FCC Open Internet rules with Internet access classified as telecommunications under Title II, and is still reviewing Congressional proposals. The following can be attributed to CCIA President & CEO Ed Black:

“Thwarting net neutrality rules would benefit a few legacy companies. It was good to hear both witnesses and multiple Members of Congress from around the country point out the greater overall economic benefits that come with strong Open Internet rules. We’ve heard the bigger Internet access providers that have been fighting Open Internet rules say they need business certainty. We agree, but hundreds of innovative companies and startups need certainty too – especially when raising start up capital. No investor wants to lend money to a company that could fail if an Internet Access Provider could offer a special deal to their competitor but not to them.

“The FCC was the institution Congress created years ago to look out for the public interest in communications network access. They were wise to reduce politics and charge an agency with protecting universal access to communications services, and they would be wise now to let the FCC carry out its mission.

“Companies like AOL, Amazon, eBay and Google all launched and thrived in the Title II environment of the late 1990s. We hope the FCC does the right thing and protects consumers’ and the next generation of innovators’ access to the open Internet.”

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