Op-Ed: Historic FCC Open Internet Vote A Boon For Latino Entrepreneurs, Content Creators, Consumers
OpinionMichael Scurato is the Policy Director for the National Hispanic Media Coalition.
In a Feb. 24 opinion piece, Jose Marquez, the President and CEO of Latinos in Information Sciences and Technology Association (LISTA), opined that Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler's proposed Open Internet rules that would prevent blocking, throttling, and paid fast lanes online would, inexplicably, harm Latinos. The FCC is set to vote on these rules on Feb. 26.
The truth is light-touch, narrow and fair rules that allow the FCC to protect and preserve the Open Internet are necessary to ensuring that the Internet remains an important tool for Latinos and all people to express themselves, pursue educational and economic opportunities, and participate in our democracy. The FCC can only enforce such rules if it classifies Internet Service Providers (ISPs) as common carriers under Title II of the Communications Act. That is why millions of people, hundreds of civil rights organizations, and champions in our government all the way up to President Obama have endorsed this approach.
Congressman John Lewis, a civil rights icon who marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Selma, said it best: "Every voice matters, and we cannot let the interests of profit silence the voices of those pursuing human dignity. I have long supported strong Net Neutrality protections ... that will protect the internet for generations yet unborn."
As the old saying goes, a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Here are a few of the weak links holding together Mr. Marquez's argument against the FCC adopting legally sustainable Net Neutrality rules under Title II of the Communications Act.
Mr. Marquez: "FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler recently announced his plan to use antiquated, 20th Century telephone rules to help protect Internet openness in the 21st Century."
Many would disagree that something is not useful just because it is old. In fact, in its own filing with the FCC, LISTA inconsistently dismisses one 20th Century legislative provision because of its age, Title II of the Communications Act, while embracing another, Section VII of the Civil Rights Act.
Mr. Marquez seems to be referring to the legal authority that the FCC plans to use -- Title II of the Communications Act -- not the rules that it is currently writing. However, as Chairman Wheeler has explained, his proposal will use the "forbearance" authority granted to the FCC by a bipartisan Congress in 1996 to pick and choose which parts of Title II ought to apply today -- effectively modernizing the FCC's authority for the 21st Century by removing a host of regulations from their toolkit. In fact, Chairman Wheeler's proposal would forbear from the traditional "utility-style" regulations that Mr. Marquez appears to be referring to, such as tariffing and rate regulation.
Mr. Marquez: "... [The] price of broadband service [in the United States] for years has ranked among the most affordable in the developed world."
On its face this seems wrong for any of us that deal with ever-escalating Internet service bills. And while Mr. Marquez failed to cite to a source for this assertion, data and facts indicate that the contrary is actually true. For three years in a row, the Open Technology Institute at New America has studied the "cost of connectivity" in the United States and abroad. The result? Customers in the United Stated consistently pay higher bills for less speed. This fact has been reported on extensively. This is mainly due to a lack of competition in local broadband markets, a problem that one ISP indicated that Title II could improve.
Mr. Marquez: "...[R]eclassification supporters as well as independent think tanks like the Progressive Policy Institute have agreed, the FCC's proposal could subject broadband customers to a whole host of new regulatory fees on their monthly bills, costing us billions of dollars every year."
The Progressive Policy Institute report that this claim is based on was thoroughly debunked months ago. In fact, the Washington Post's "Fact Checker" awarded the report three out of four "Pinocchios" for containing "significant factual errors and/or obvious contradictions."
Further, it is completely inaccurate for Mr. Marquez to claim that "reclassification supporters" have agreed that Chairman Wheeler's proposal will increase taxes or fees on customers. Despite being completely exposed as false, this argument has been advanced almost exclusively by ISPs that oppose enforceable Net Neutrality rules.
Mr. Marquez: "...[A]ccording to a recent American Enterprise Institute/Sonecon [AEI] study, reclassification could lead to as much as a $45 billion reduction in broadband investment over the next five years."
Executives from major ISPs like Time Warner Cable, Charter and Verizon have consistently assured investors that, despite the inevitability of rules grounded in Title II, the companies will continue investing in their enormously profitable networks to keep up with consumer demand. Competitive ISPs, like Sprint and T-Mobile, have indicated that they do not expect a Title II regime to slow their investment. As noted above, Google Fiber stated that applying certain provisions of Title II could actually "promote competition and spur more investment and deployment of Internet service." So, with all due respect to Mr. Marquez and AEI, the companies doing the actual investing are more credible sources on this point.
As Congresswoman Anna Eshoo recently said: "...[T]here isn't anyone in my district that has raised their hand and said 'Oh you know what? Discriminate against me. Come on down.' It's not a place for companies to be either." However, by opposing common sense, enforceable rules, that is exactly what Mr. Marquez is saying, not only for himself, but on behalf of the Latino entrepreneurs and consumers that he purports to represent. There are millions of people that would disagree.
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