Home » Digital Divide » Latinos Will Lose If the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Adopts Title II as a Means to Regulate the Internet

By Martin Chavez, Senior Advisor

In the wake of the recent D.C. Court of Appeals decision in Verizon v. FCC, the FCC has proposed new rules designed to preserve an Open Internet.

The issue of Net Neutrality, more properly understood as Open Internet has generated considerable passion, debate and misinformation from many quarters and the Hispanic Technology and Telecommunications Partnership (HTTP) believes that it is important that our community understands exactly what the facts are and how we as Latinos might once again end up on the losing end of the proposition. No one, I repeat, no one is opposed to Net Neutrality or an Open Internet, but finding out what that means and understanding the implications of proposed FCC rules reveals very real differences of opinion! And most importantly, it cries out for calmer heads to prevail.
Latinos have historically been early adopters of Internet technology, particularly in the arena of smartphones. We actually outpace any other group of Americans in that regard. For Latinos, our digital divide centers around home and school based access to high speed Internet. And while the Internet was initially developed by the Federal Government in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s, it has been the private sector which has caused the massive growth of the Internet into an essential economic and social tool for all Americans. And it did so through what most experts recognize as a “light” regulatory touch.

That light regulatory touch and the massive economic-social engine that is now our modern Internet is founded on some fairly simple principles. Everyone should have access. No one should have the right to block or degrade traffic on the Internet. Internet Service Providers (ISPs) should be transparent.

But now with fists clenched and slogan-filled banners, some have shouted strenuously that the United States should place the Internet under the intense federal regulation of our 1960’s phone services (plain old phone service – POTS) as embodied in Title II of the Communications Act. Most of us still remember the monopolies which ensued, the nearly impenetrable bureaucracies and the near complete lack of innovation. If we want the Internet to remain Open, common sense dictates that the last direction we want to go is backwards.

Here are just a few of the possible adverse consequences if the FCC decides to regulate the Internet using the same regulatory framework with which it governed rotary phones.
1. Prices to consumers will rise as providers attempt to navigate the old regulations which were never designed for the Internet and are prohibited from recovering fair market based costs from edge who consume up to 50% of bandwidth during peak hours.
2. Deployment of broadband infrastructure (which directly impacts Latino adoption) will be delayed.
3. Badly needed investment dollars for infrastructure and expansion of Internet technologies will move elsewhere as it did several years ago at the mere mention of reclassification of Internet services.
4. The United States will get in line with other countries that saw their Internet growth stunted by heavy-handed regulation. That’s not the line Latinos want to be in!

5. The modernization of programs like E-rate which are essential to high speed broadband access in our schools will at best be delayed.

Proponents of reclassifying the Internet as a common carrier under Title II of the Communications Act do so because they believe it will allow the FCC to prohibit any discrimination in access to or utilization of the Internet, thus assuring an Open Internet or Net Neutrality. In fact, the very language of Title II prohibits only “unjust or unreasonable discrimination in charges, practices . . . or services”. By definition, Title II expressly allows for reasonable discrimination the very thing that Title II proponents profess to oppose. Under this new regulatory scheme, just who will pay more? Will it really only be those who can better afford it? Whose neighborhoods and schools will be last in line? Will children really have greater access, both as users and potential entrepreneurs by a return to the regulatory era of their grandparents? Simply, that is not Open Internet and Latinos need to be aware of the consequences if the FCC takes the Title II path.

The notion that all Internet content is equal or should be treated equally is ludicrous. Does Netflix really have an unfettered right to utilize up to 60% of capacity to stream video? Latinos, like many other Americans, who are increasingly seeing the benefit and opportunity for health care over the Internet might legitimately argue that health care content likely has greater social value than steaming videos of 1960’s television reruns. On this issue, Latinos and advocates of an Open Internet deserve better from policy makers than 1960’s regulatory reruns.

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