by Barbara Kasoff, WIPP President
Earlier this year, the FCC voted to adopt overbearing “Title II” regulations that have already led to legal battles which will likely extend for the next several years. What is Title II? Title II of the Communications Act of 1934 would grant the FCC additional regulatory authority; this is the authority they utilize over telecommunications services currently. Plenty of experts and economists, as well as the small business community, warned against the consequences of applying outdated Title II regulations on our country’s Internet infrastructure. For small telecom providers especially, it’s quickly becoming clear that Title II is detrimental to growth and investment in their businesses.
According to U.S. Census Bureau data, small businesses are the overwhelming majority in the telecommunications sector. And in his dissent, FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai pointed out that “today there are thousands of smaller Internet service providers…that don’t have the means or the margins to withstand a regulatory onslaught. Smaller, rural competitors will be disproportionately affected, and the FCC’s decision will diminish competition.”
The FCC’s new regulations would subject those small businesses to uncertainty and costs, slowing innovation and leading to decreased investment. A new policy memo from the Progressive Policy Institute highlights the investment issue, stating the FCC’s decision to adopt Title II regulations could undermine the FCC’s broadband adoption and expansion goals, as well as cost the economy billions in lost investment—a reduction in annual investment of $4 to $10 billion.
These damaging effects are not mere speculation: As of last week, many of these small broadband operators have gone on record, stating under penalty of perjury that these regulations are forcing them to cut back on investments. These Internet providers include wireless Internet service providers, small-town cable operators, and others, from all across the country. These different businesses are united, because they have been directly affected by regulations. As a result, they are forced to cut back on network upgrades, expansion plans, capacity upgrades, and investment in rural and underserved areas.
For consumers, these cutbacks in investment will cause slower speeds, service delays, and coverage gaps. Reduced investment means that expansion plans will be scrapped or at least delayed, especially in rural and underserved communities where increased broadband deployment is critical. Consumers have been clear in their desire for faster speeds, expanded coverage, lower prices, and increased competition—but Title II regulations will result in the opposite, hurting small businesses along the way.
There’s a way out of this mess, one that doesn’t involve legal limbo: bipartisan legislation. Congress can design bipartisan solutions that will protect the Open Internet and consumers, as well as provide light-touch regulation that prohibits blocking and throttling. This approach will pave the way for increased investment, innovation, and competition—benefitting American consumers and relieving small businesses and entrepreneurs from an overwhelming regulatory burden. These legislative efforts are currently underway, and we certainly look forward to a real solution, one that does not harm small businesses or consumers.