Some remarkable improvements have occurred in U.S. internet service recently. Our access speeds are getting faster, up nearly 40% since last year for fixed service and up 22% for mobile. Viewers are gaining access to wildly new video choices, including new small-sized TV packages for cord-cutters and even a la carte channel pricing.
Also notable, and especially important to our APIA community: broadband deployment is picking up steam. Broadband capex has rebounded into the high single-digits for 2018 and this is fueling the roll-out of high-speed technologies promising faster, more accessible service. This includes superfast 5G wireless — which is deploying ahead of schedule — better fixed service, and global satellite access — which had test satellites sent into orbit in February.
With so much progress, this is no time for state legislators to begin a multi-state battle royale over internet regulation. Unfortunately, there’s a real danger of this problem taking place as legislators in 29 states have introduced bills to provide varying and sometimes conflicting rules. Three states have already enacted state-specific laws while Governors in another six states have signed executive orders.
This activity is largely in response to the FCC’s recent decision to streamline broadband regulation. That move, which became final last month, has caused state officials to claim that internet users don’t have adequate online protections. However, multiple Federal laws already offer us online protections.
But given the internet’s importance in our lives and the risk of it being tied down in state rules and lawsuits, Congress should move quickly on legislation to guarantee a free and open internet. The outlines should be obvious:
- Guaranteed access to content and apps,
- No blocking or discrimination based on content,
- Full transparency, and
- Privacy rights across the whole internet.
Federal broadband regulations have changed 8 times since 2003 and everyone should agree that this is no way to oversee an industry that supports 11 million jobs and more than $75 billion in annual investment. These regulatory twists disproportionately hurt start-up internet service providers.
Online technologies don’t change when you cross a state boundary. Neither should internet laws. Congress must act now to stop states from tying down the internet — limiting options for consumers and creating countrywide confusion.