The global Internet needs a global policy protecting data flows and encouraging investment

Digital waves encircling the globe

Last month, Verizon’s Peter Davidson participated in a panel discussion of international Internet & technology policy issues at the Technology Policy Institute’s annual Aspen Forum.

Although countries may often take different approaches to issues like privacy, or the regulations both consumers and businesses must navigate, the fact remains that light-touch and globally-oriented regulatory approaches are crucial in today’s Internet- and mobile-focused world. Such flexible policies ensure businesses have some certainty to seek a return on their investments, whether in network infrastructure, new devices, or services. Consumers can feel confident that their privacy and the security of their data is being protected. Both investment and consumer certainty are key to encouraging “the next billion” Internet users to connect.

In the U.S., this means ensuring the availability of spectrum, pro-investment tax laws, and reaffirming the light-touch regulatory framework that helped fuel the world-class networks that the EU and others now seek to emulate. On the global level, countries that want to encourage investment and innovation in their Internet and communications technology sector should strike strong international agreements protecting cross-border data flows – everything from data packets that carry scientific research to streaming video content.

Such flexible policies are fully in keeping with an open Internet. What’s more, if a significant number of countries can agree to principles that maximize the information that flows over the networks, then that increased demand for capacity will provide the incentive for operators to expand their networks, or even build new ones. And it is important to remember that those who are hurt most by data localization requirements are Internet users living within the countries that exercise this soft data protectionism.

This issue is so critical to the US that the Obama administration and Congress should ensure that any agreements – including the Trans Pacific Partnership, the Trade in Services Agreement, and the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership –  contain strong cross-border data flow protections.

Catch the full panel discussion embedded below. The rest of TPI’s 2015 Aspen events are available on YouTube.