The FCC is on the right track, especially concerning the touchy subject of “net neutrality.”
That’s the key takeaway from remarks made over the weekend by FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly.
In a speech delivered Saturday by O’Rielly to the Americans for Prosperity’s 2017 Defending the American Dream Summit in Richmond, the Republican Commissioner asserted that it is the FCC’s job “is to provide an environment for such innovation and investment to flourish in the communications technology sector while protecting consumers along the way.”
He noted, “Since the earliest days of the commercial Internet, there was bipartisan consensus that the best way to advance that objective was to maintain as minimalist a role for government as possible. The result was hundreds of billions in private network investment, promoting U.S. leadership in digital innovation, unlocking untold benefits
for the American people, and further enabling the American Dream.”
O’Rielly then lamented that the FCC under former chairman Tom Wheeler “deviated from this proven formula.”
He said, “Rather than permitting ‘disruptive’ technologies to continue to develop, the Commission favored regulatory ‘know-it-all-ism.’ The result, predictably, has been the creation of market uncertainty, leading to a rethinking of network investment.”
The result, O’Rielly says, is “the creation of market uncertainty, leading to a rethinking of network investment.”
He painted the following picture.
“Consider this for a moment: Internet and wireless growth is exploding before our very eyes as consumers demand more capacity and capabilities,” O’Rielly said. “And yet, companies have been hesitant to invest the necessary resources to meet such demands. Sadly, the key data points – what companies would have invested absent Commission regulation, a.k.a. the counterfactual – cannot be easily determined, making it difficult to measure the true depths of harm caused by these detrimental policies.”
That’s where O’Rielly returned to his GOP colleague, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, in saying that — under his leadership — “the new FCC has been working to right the course.”
He said, “Shortly before the inauguration, I outlined four general areas where actions could be taken to reinvigorate investment: one, undoing harmful policies; two, clearing regulatory underbrush; three, developing and executing a strong pro-innovation agenda; and, four, overhauling the Commission’s arcane processes and its organization. I’m pleased to say that we’ve seen significant progress on each front.”
And, when it comes to “undoing harmful policies,” the “headline-grabber has been our move to review and reconsider the previous Administration’s so-called net neutrality rules, which subject our 21st century broadband networks to Depression-era regulations designed for telephone monopolies,” O’Rielly said. “This proceeding is still ongoing, and we will go where the facts of the record lead us, but rest assured that the Commission is committed to a free and open Internet, while preserving incentives for network investment.”
In concluding his address, which did not touch on broadcast media, O’Rielly offered a “bottom line.”
He said, “The Internet is arguably the greatest man-made technology of my lifetime and a testament to free-market principles embodying the American Dream. The government
must remain steadfast that this platform should be unfettered by regulation. Doing so is the way to ensure that the economic revolution and expansion of opportunity, unsurpassed in modern history, will continue for future generations and empower their American Dreams.”