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By Will Johnson – SVP, Federal Regulatory & Legal Affairs
Today, some companies and organizations are taking part in a “Day of Action” on net neutrality. We respect that and applaud their passion. But for more than a decade this issue has been characterized primarily by slogans and rhetoric, and this has not led to protection of the open Internet on a permanent and predictable basis. So we respectfully suggest that real action will involve people coming together to urge Congress to pass net neutrality legislation once and for all.
Like those participating in the Day of Action, Verizon supports the open Internet. We’ve said so for a long time now – the open Internet is good for consumers and critical for our business. We have invested billions of dollars in dozens of content providers and producers. Our Oath subsidiary includes more than 50 brands reaching more than one billion people every month – including AOL and Yahoo, the Huffington Post, Yahoo Sports, Tumblr, Engadget, and TechCrunch. And our Verizon Digital Media Services keeps online video and other data moving across the Internet in ways that improve consumers’ experience. Like other Internet companies, these businesses depend on the ability to reach customers over other Internet Service Providers’ (ISP) networks. And if ISPs – or other Internet companies, for that matter – started engaging in practices that undermined the open Internet, we would be hurt.
But it is important to distinguish agreement on a goal from honest debate on the best means to achieve that goal. For example, over the last year, there has been considerable discussion about how to address extremist content or fake news that bad actors are constantly searching for new ways to spread online. But we – and we suspect most of the groups taking part in the Day of Action – would vehemently disagree with regulating Web sites like public broadcasting stations as a way of addressing the issue. Right goal, wrong approach.
Likewise, while we agree with the goal of an open Internet, we do not think the answer is to impose 1930s utility regulation on ISPs. Regulation designed for rotary phones and monopoly railroads doesn’t fit today’s competitive Internet space. And the early experience with the FCC applying Title II regulation to broadband has already revealed the risks. One of the first targets of the new broadband regulation was to go after programs that gave consumers “free data” when accessing content using their wireless devices – plans that had already proven very popular with consumers. So we think the FCC is doing the right thing in trying find a new legal basis for protecting an open Internet. But we’re NOT backing off our consistent support for policies that ensure that consumers will always be able to go where they want, and do what they want, online or that allow any innovator to dream up the next big thing.
It’s in all of our interests to ensure that consumers can access the legal content of their choice when and how they want. It also is in all of our interests for businesses to have certainty so they can invest in networks and create new products and offers with confidence. And providers throughout the Internet ecosystem should be able to expand and grow their networks and services without fear of being cut-short by regulation. After all, few of these amazing services we all use today could have existed 15 years ago because the broadband networks didn’t exist. An iPhone on 2G networks would have been just a phone. And this continuous advance in networks enables similar advances in applications, services and devices – all to the benefit of consumers.
We expect that most of the companies engaged in today’s Action feel the same way. So let’s come together to make real change. The Internet is too important to have policies that change with each election. It’s time to get past the rhetoric and the pendulum swings and work together to craft a durable set of rules that protect the open Internet without discouraging the investment in the next generation of broadband networks that will enable the next generation of online services. We encourage all the participants in today’s Day of Action to join us in urging Congress to bring this decade-long issue to a close. Open Internet protections deserve to be written in ink, not pencil.