US Senator John Thune’s Weekly Column: Don’t Break the Net

Don’t Break the Net
By Senator John Thune

John_Thune,_official_portrait,_111th_CongressWhether it is to catch the scores of last night’s game, read the morning news, or stay connected with friends and family, like many South Dakotans, I depend on fast, reliable Internet service. The role of the Internet in our lives is only going to continue to grow. It will keep revolutionizing things like transportation, commerce, agriculture, and education. But heavy-handed government regulation could delay the next big transformation.

On February 26, three unelected officials of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted to approve the most controversial agenda item in the agency’s modern history, a policy awkwardly known as Title II reclassification of broadband. The FCC voted 3-2 to impose heavy-handed regulations on the Internet that were designed and intended for monopoly phone companies in the 1930s. The regulations being imposed by the FCC are an attempted power-grab that will create new barriers for innovation and open the door to new taxes and fees on internet service for American households.

In the 317 page rule that has yet to be made public, the FCC gives itself broad power to decide how broadband services may be offered in the market. For example, mobile broadband plans that allow unlimited music streaming could be prohibited by the government. Additionally, the FCC action could make broadband more expensive because compliance with these regulations will increase operational costs for providers that will likely be passed along to customers in the form higher prices for broadband Internet service.

New investment in communications networks will also be threatened. Broadband networks are expensive to build, operate, and maintain, and nowhere is that more apparent than in South Dakota, with our relatively small population and large landmass.

Advocates for reclassification worry that future entities that control Internet access could abuse that position to affect what content users can access. I have generally not been in favor of instituting government regulations until we know there is a real and actual need. But, to prevent the FCC’s heavy-handed regulatory overreach, I believe it is time for Congress to act by updating our telecommunication laws.

As chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, which oversees the FCC and policies relating to telecommunications and the Internet, I put forward a legislative solution earlier this year to create common-sense rules for the digital road. What I am proposing is very different from what the FCC has jammed through. The FCC regulations are 317 pages. My draft proposal is six pages that focuses on what consumers want – prohibiting practices like “blocking,” which is the process blocking legal content, and “paid prioritization,” which is demanding special payments for access to certain services, all without the legal uncertainty associated with the FCC’s plan.

Above all, I don’t want the debate about protecting the open Internet to be used as an excuse for the federal government to grab control of the Internet from innovators. I will continue to pursue a legislative solution with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to address the problems associated with the FCC overreach, and I will fight for policies that maintain the light-touch regulatory structure that has enabled the Internet to thrive.


20 thoughts on “US Senator John Thune’s Weekly Column: Don’t Break the Net”

  1. Empty Press Release. Tell us how you’re going to stop the FCC’s action, John. The Republicans are in the majority, yet whine and moan like they’re in the minority. Man-up and do something.

  2. yeah john, give ’em an elbow as you drive to the hoop. is that what you want, antipartisan? i think thune is doing a lot by working the process. he has committee leverage, and he’s firing the right warning shots.

  3. This is ridiculous. Just look at who is lining up behind Thune:

    Verizon. Comcast. AT&T. Anyone who hasn’t donated their brain can get it. Thune is working his tail off trying to position these companies to screw you over.

    The deal Thune is pushing so hard to put through is a third-world model where a few giant companies will end up controlling, or at least mediating, the Internet experience for much of the population because of special deals they’ve struck with Internet providers for prioritized or subsidized data delivery.

    John, we know that $10 million came from somewhere. We know you’re fixin’ to sell us out in favor of Verizon, Comcast, Time-Warner, AT&T. Well, you have to pay those favors back and you’ll do it by screwing us all. Well, that is if Obama isn’t President. Maybe Hillary will be easier to work with.

    1. So, do you really think having an Executive Branch agency, controlled by the same Administration that can’t build a functional website, taking control of the Internet is a great idea?

      This is nothing more than a power grab by the Executive branch.

      1. William, the FCC has done an incredibly good job. Not perfect. For instance, in most free countries in the world, FOX news would not be able to pass themselves off as a news network. I think we need some tightening there, but as long as people know it’s fake well, no harm done.

        As I said in my post, Thune is pushing a third-world model that accumulates all the power in the hands of a few. Of course, you have never heard anyone complain about Verizon, Comcast or AT&T, have you?

        Thune is fixin’ to screw you and the rest of us. But you’ll like that, won’t you? Time to pay back the $10 million he got with gifts of billions back – and that will be your money!

    2. american oligarch doesn’t think the administration has its own select crony list who will greatly benefit from things heading the other way. we already had ftc oversight of the companies engaged in providing service, now with the fcc’s power grab, yet again the question must be asked who will watch the watchers?

      1. Political cronyism does, in fact, exist. However, I would take the FCC when it comes to protecting the interests of the American people every single time over having Verizon, Comcast, AT&T and those companies having control.

        You obviously prefer what those corporations would do versus what the FCC would do. Not the brightest position, and other than the standard “Government Bad” position that keeps getting floated out with the bumper sticker-sized arguments presented by Republicans, I wonder what your other real reasons are for having it.

        1. Pournelle’s Iron Law of Bureaucracy states that in any bureaucratic organization there will be two kinds of people”:

          First, there will be those who are devoted to the goals of the organization. Examples are dedicated classroom teachers in an educational bureaucracy, many of the engineers and launch technicians and scientists at NASA, even some agricultural scientists and advisors in the former Soviet Union collective farming administration.

          Secondly, there will be those dedicated to the organization itself. Examples are many of the administrators in the education system, many professors of education, many teachers union officials, much of the NASA headquarters staff, etc.

          The Iron Law states that in every case the second group will gain and keep control of the organization. It will write the rules, and control promotions within the organization.”


        2. i’ll keep my own counsel on who is bright or not in our exchanges. you keep ducking the main points of debate and trotting out the tired epithets against republicans again and again. ‘oh we can’t let the reality break into that pretty picture we paint of how backwards them dang republican hillbillies are. they will tear up my nice road and sewer pipe and replace them with outhouses and mud paths with their dang budget cutting. ‘ i wish debating you on topics could be more elevated than that but the choice is always yours.

        3. to paraphrase john mclaughlin ” the RIGHT answer is – – verizon, comcast and a.t.& t. don’t lose control with the f-c-c, they just redirect their business to a one-stop crony shop.” bye BYE

  4. I hardly consider Human Rights Watch a “Right-Wing” organization, yet even they have less blind faith in the benevolence of government power than AO.

    It’s true, all organizations act in self interest, however only governments hold the power to enforce their agendas through force.

    “Snowden’s revelations laid bare the rift between the stated values of the US and UK and their behavior. Even while championing an open and free Internet, these governments were collecting data on hundreds of million people worldwide every day… To make it easier to spy on people online and identify security threats, they have also surreptitiously weakened Internet security, paradoxically making all Internet users less safe and more vulnerable to hackers and identity thieves.

    Left unchecked, this dynamic could soon produce a world in which every online search, electronic contact, email, or transaction is stored away in one or more government databases. With no government able to ensure the privacy of its own citizens from foreign snooping and intelligence agencies teaming up to share data about the citizens of other countries, a truly Orwellian scenario could unfold. While the US asserts it will not use intelligence gathering to quash dissent or discriminate, governments have repeatedly used surveillance to these ends.”

      1. Those accessible through an innovative marketplace provided by entrepeneurs and private investments, protected under existing antitrust and consumer-protection laws.

        Unlike networks controlled and censored by their governments.

        “Though no market failure exists, and regulators have never conducted a study to diagnose the alleged potential illness, the FCC has twice tried to impose new rules on the Web. Each time it lost in court.

        The tragedy of this debate is that no one, including phone, wireless and cable companies, has ever contested the goals of keeping the Internet open. It has been open and freedom-enhancing since it was privatized in the mid-1990s because it is protected under existing antitrust and consumer-protection laws. Instead, the fight has been over how much regulatory power the FCC should wield.”

        1. That’s a part of the story. Neither you nor I or anyone else in here is close enough to really see what’s going on behind the scenes. I would think that it would be enough to just see which organizations are stacking up against the FCC plan and which support it.

          Several things I do know:

          1. I don’t trust the third-world plan that Thune put forward. It favors the companies that would screw you every time they have the chance. And I don’t trust Thune in that position because he has billions of goodies to pay back for the $10 million he has in the bank.

          2. If Google is for net neutrality and Verizon is against net neutrality, I’m going with Google.

          3. I love your opening comment above, but just think about this: The FCC has regulated interstate and international communications for a very long time. Their job is to make sure there is a competitive marketplace and they have done a very good job at that. I do want to mention that in the US, unlike most other advanced countries the FCC is probably falling down on the job by letting FOX News actually categorize themselves as a news channel, but I can forgive that because of all the great things the FCC has done.

          Although I appreciate the proliferation of the term “Power Grab,” that just isn’t happening here. It’s the prevention of the third-world practice to accumulating complete power in just a few companies and that is a bad thing.

          I don’t know if you were in MBA class that day when they taught us that legislating your competition out of business is far cheaper than actually competing. That’s the concept Verizon, Comcast, AT&T and others are using Thune to advance.

  5. 1. “The companies that would screw you every time they have the chance.” – Because government only uses its power for good?
    2. “If Google is for net neutrality and Verizon is against net neutrality, I’m going with Google.” – Because Google only uses its power for good?
    3. “FCC has regulated interstate and international communications for a very long time. Their job is to make sure there is a competitive marketplace and they have done a very good job at that.” – Umm, under FCC authority requirements for advance approvals led to decades with little to no innovation in telecommunications technology, “universal” telephone service took nearly 60 years to complete, mobile phone service took over 30 years to become commercially available, commercial availability of packet switching networks (arpnet to internet) took over 20 years… And the list goes on… If you like your dial-up, you can keep your dial-up…

    As to “legislating your competition out of business,” it doesn’t take an MBA to notice the obvious, which is that GOVERNMENT does the legislating, not those “evil corporations” and you can’t have crony capitalism without GOVERNMENT as the leading partner.

    I’m not really interested in “academic theory” as much as I am reality. The reality is, government regulatory agencies, by their very nature, impede innovation and stifle competition.

    The most egregious abuse of power involving internet security, thus far, has come from the very government claiming the authority to “regulate” it.

    As to your comments regarding Fox News, regardless of your opinion of their credibility, would you accept government’s authority to enforce a “Fairness Doctrine” that refused to allow content from MSNBC, Mother Jones, Huffington Post, etc?

    Do you honestly support the suppression of political speech?

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