Video of Thune's speech is available here (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IqV646t-PN0).
Thank you, Randy, for that warm introduction.
Before policymakers can talk about which communications laws need to be updated and which regulations have outlived their purpose, we first need to understand where
For instance, the
But where the U.S. really outshines
While some pro-regulatory advocates claim our communications sector is dominated by monopolies and duopolies, the evidence in the marketplace doesn't support that view. Monopoly markets are typically characterized by a lack of investment, a lack of innovation, no new entrants, and excessive profits.
Since 1996, the private sector has invested
As for excessive profits for communications providers, again, there's little evidence. Former Clinton Administration Official,
Why does this all matter? Because painting a picture of a dysfunctional communications and broadband marketplace is central to the efforts of pro-regulatory advocates who claim more government intervention into the online world is needed to fix a "broken system." Many of those who seek to regulate the Internet are using mistruths and hyperbole to scare both the public and policymakers into restricting economic and individual liberty.
We should instead be celebrating the accomplishments of our communications, technology, and Internet industries and looking for ways to build upon this and drive further economic growth. The foundation that all of this success rests upon is our communications infrastructure, particularly our broadband networks. Without robust and ubiquitous broadband, many of the innovations and business breakthroughs of the last several years would not be possible. We must ensure our communications policy reflects the new Internet-powered world, so that the potential of what rides over-the-top of our communications networks is fully realized.
The last time
The bipartisan and deregulatory Telecommunications Act of 1996 encouraged intermodal competition and provided a light regulatory touch for information services. Bipartisan leadership at the
The Telecom Act was far from perfect, but it got the job done. Even so, it is best to view the Telecom Act as a transitional law for a transitional time, rather than as a permanent statute that will last 62 years without major revision, like its predecessor, the Communications Act of 1934. The original Communications Act was designed for an era of actual communications monopolies; the Telecom Act was designed for the transitional era that took us from monopoly to competition; and now, we need a new policy framework for today's converged, competitive, and Internet-powered world.
This, of course, is much easier said than done. Modernizing the laws governing the communications and technology sectors is no small task, which is why I am glad my colleagues in the
It took several years for
There has long been bipartisan consensus that our communications laws are outdated. According to my former colleague Sen.
Any such discussion needs to begin with broadband Internet and the government's regulatory posture toward it. It has been said before by me and many others, but it bears repeating until people really understand--Title II common carrier regulations designed nearly a century ago for a telephone monopoly simply do not make sense in a more competitive broadband world.
Now, I'm not saying that the Internet should be a lawless frontier free from any government oversight. That is the sort of straw-man accusation leveled by those who want to avoid doing the hard work of justifying regulations for the Internet ecosystem. Even so, policymakers must be careful to preserve the light-touch regime, first implemented by the
Some people, however, want to completely upset that regime and instead want to see the Internet shackled with Title II of the Communications Act. Title II is certainly not a "light touch," not with its burdensome rate regulation, property valuation, and discontinuance provisions, along with many others.
Traditional wireline telephony now makes up just 22 percent of the 443 million phone lines in America, and that rate continues to decline each year. When consumers are rapidly abandoning traditional Title II services, it makes little sense to apply Title II regulations to today's new technologies and business models. Even
Another reason I oppose Title II reclassification is because regulating an industry as if it were a public utility monopoly is the surest way to guarantee the industry will become a monopoly. As I discussed earlier, the evidence in the marketplace makes it clear that our broadband market is dynamic and competitive--not at all like the early days of
Neither Title II nor section 706 of the Telecom Act are appropriate tools to regulate the Internet. The former is outdated and politically corrosive. The latter is legally untested and potentially far too broad. When
The only way to provide the certainty that ISPs, edge providers, content publishers, and end users need and want is for
I'd note that the last time
For all the attention that Title II, section 706, and the IP transition get, we cannot lose sight of mobile communications. Everywhere you look, from the forecasts of venture capitalists and industry analysts to that shiny device teenagers use, it is all about mobile broadband.
Now, some people will argue that mobile broadband isn't "real" broadband, that mobile isn't an alternative to fixed, but tell that to the owners of the 188 million smartphones in this country. People aren't using the Internet stuck in one place, tethered to a single, fixed broadband connection. In fact, Americans now spend more time with their mobile devices each day than they do going online with a laptop or PC.
If consumers view mobile and fixed broadband as part of the same seamless Internet experience, why should policymakers act as if mobile and fixed broadband are completely separate, distinct things? We should take our guidance from what real people are actually doing in the marketplace rather than listening to ivory-tower academics or professional advocates who claim that wireless Internet access is "second-class." These are the very same people who argued not even a decade ago that wireless phones would never be an adequate substitute for landlines. Today, nearly half of Americans have proved those predictions to be shortsighted. For consumers, broadband is both fixed and mobile, both wired and wireless.
Just as treating broadband like a monopoly is the surest way to get a broadband monopoly, treating mobile as an inferior form of broadband is the surest way to stifle wireless broadband. Rather than fighting the wisdom of the crowds, we should embrace it and pursue policies that make the mobile Internet experience even more powerful and more robust.
One of the things
At this point, there are no more large blocks of unused spectrum sitting around waiting to be assigned for advanced wireless services. We've already gone after the low hanging fruit, so we will need to redouble our collective efforts to free up more spectrum as well as using current spectrum in a more efficient manner.
Spectrum users, be they government agencies or private companies, like having distinct frequencies to themselves. But in the future, we're are going to need these spectrum users to start getting used to living much closer to each other--think rowhouses and condo buildings rather than sprawling, spread-out suburbs. And much like real estate, they're not making any more wireless frequencies, so we are going to need to get the most possible out of the current spectrum map.
One of the biggest drivers of increasing wireless traffic is video, another area that is ripe for reform. As ranking member of the
A great deal has changed in the video market in just the past five years, let alone since we last passed comprehensive video legislation 22 years ago. When
With so much having changed in the video marketplace, now is a good time for
From my position on the Commerce Committee and in Republican leadership, I see every day the rewards and challenges of living through the digital revolution. The world moves so fast that it is hard for even the most technologically-savvy and digitally-connected person to keep up with everything, so it should be no surprise that our laws have fallen woefully behind. I can promise you that I will continue to work with my colleagues in the
I know that our next speaker, FCC Commissioner
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