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Surprise! We Agree with the President’s Principles on Net Neutrality

Friday, November 14, 2014  
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Surprise! We Agree with the President’s Principles on Net Neutrality: Reiterating Our Strong Support for the Open Internet

By David L. Cohen, Executive Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer in Open Internet

Yesterday, the President outlined his plan for a free and open Internet.  There has been no shortage of discussion and debate on the topic of net neutrality. A clear consensus has emerged for the FCC to adopt new rules that will strengthen the open Internet and ensure that the Internet remains a vital engine for innovation, economic growth, and free expression. 

And while some have been led to believe something else,  we support net neutrality.  And we’ve been consistent in expressing our strong support for an open Internet – in statements, speeches, blog posts,filings, and advertising.

What is remarkable is that if you compare the President’s articulation of his vision for net neutrality as set forth in the White House talking points released yesterday afternoon, we are on the record as agreeing with every point:

·         Free and open Internet.  We agree – and that is our practice.

·         No blocking.  We agree—and that is our practice.

·         No throttling.  We agree – and that is our practice.

·         Increased transparency.  We agree – and that is our practice.

·         No paid prioritization.  We agree – and that is our practice.  

We have publicly supported the FCC adopting new, strong Open Internet rules.  We have stated on numerous occasions that we believe legally enforceable rules should continue to include strong transparency, no blocking, and anti-discrimination provisions.  We don’t prioritize Internet traffic or have paid fast lanes, and have no plans to do so. 

We applaud the President for laying out these principles and framing the broad areas of agreement that we have with him.  There is one important technical legal difference of opinion between the President and Comcast:  we do not support reclassification of broadband as a telecommunications service under Title II.  Doing so would harm future innovation and investment in broadband and is not necessary to put in place strong and enforceable Open Internet protections.  We continue to believe that Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act provides more than ample authority to impose those rules, as the DC Circuit made clear.

The policy the White House laid out yesterday would jeopardize this engine for job creation and investment as well as the innovation cycle that the Internet has generated.  In fact, the White House itself recognized in its Broadband Report released last year that a light touch approach to regulation has fostered innovation and investment.  In 2013, the top four ISPs invested a combined $46 billion in the U.S. economy – with Comcast investing $6.6 billion in infrastructure in America, up from $5.7 billion in 2012.  This investment has been made possible through the sound application of light touch regulation and it is simply indisputable that Title II would put these significant investments in jeopardy and diminish innovation and job creation as a direct result.  Furthermore, reclassifying services that have been lightly regulated as information services would reverse over a decade of bipartisan precedent, including findings by the Supreme Court that this classification was proper. 

This is not game playing or sophistry on our part.  We believe in having strong and enforceable Open Internet rules.  We just believe that the courts have laid out a clear legal path to accomplishing that result under Section 706 which will enable the country to avoid the adverse investment and innovation impacts of Title II.  Being for net neutrality and against Title II is completely consistent.  People can be for net neutrality and against Title II – that simply represents agreement on the why, but not the how.

In sum, we unequivocally support rules that put in place the necessary protections of transparency, no blocking, non-discrimination rules, and no "fast lanes" – but there is no upside gained by imposing Title II reclassification as a way to put these protections in place, only substantial risk of harm.


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