Rutherford: Don’t over-regulate Internet in the name of ‘net neutrality’

06/27/2014 12:00 AM

06/26/2014 6:32 PM

The Internet has transformed nearly every aspect of our daily lives, whether it’s accessing health-care services, video chatting with family thousands of miles away or watching the latest Netflix show. Not only does it provide multiple forms of entertainment and ways to communicate, it’s also a great societal equalizer, providing opportunities to complete job applications or bolster civic engagement.

The Internet that we enjoy and rely on runs over advanced high-speed broadband networks borne by private investment. Since 1996, broadband providers have spent $1.2 trillion — including more than $1 billion in South Carolina — building, deploying and maintaining these networks. Not only does this investment bring the power of the Internet to our fingertips, it creates jobs and economic opportunities throughout the state.

In the past several years, there has been a contentious debate surrounding an issue some have erroneously labeled “net neutrality.” The basic concept is that all content that flows over broadband networks should be treated the same. While the issue may seem straightforward, some special-interest groups in Washington are using that argument to reclassify broadband as a “common carrier” telecommunication service, a category designed decades ago to regulate monopoly-era rotary phone systems. In essence, they suggest subjecting the best dynamic technology of our time to the worst, heavy-handed government policies of the last century.

Imposing these Depression-era regulations on the Internet marketplace will mark a troubling reversal in long-standing public policy and jeopardize the innovation we have all benefited from because of the careful regulatory approach that President Clinton and his administration embraced when the Internet was in its early stages.

President Clinton’s Federal Communications Commission chairman, Bill Kennard, stated it best: “The fertile fields of innovation across the communications sector and around the country are blooming because from the get-go we have taken a deregulatory, competitive approach to our communications structure — especially the Internet.”

As an elected official, I understand the need to design balanced public policy that will encourage private investment and protect consumer needs. Preserving an open Internet will protect consumers, but regulators must reject special-interest groups’ misguided effort to impose 20th century regulations on 21st century technologies.

In South Carolina, we are fortunate to have our own Mignon Clyburn serve on the FCC. Commissioner Clyburn is in a pivotal position to determine the outcome of this debate and the nature of the regulations that may be imposed on Internet technologies. It is my sincere hope that she supports a balanced and moderate approach to preserving an open Internet.

Rep. Todd Rutherford


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