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Net Neutrality Rider

The following post is an open letter which I submitted to Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison after she submitted a bill barring the FCC from protecting net neutrality.

Ma’am,

I’m concerned about a bill you submitted on December 16th, a “rider” that would ‘prohibit the FCC from using any appropriated funds to adopt, implement or otherwise litigate any network neutrality based rules, protocols or standards’.

I’m concerned about this bill firstly because I am in the military, and I find it unbelievable that military spending is so often used as a vehicle for other political aims. If military spending bills are to be nothing more than a way of passing less popular legislation, that says a lot about both our legislative system’s flaws and about our nation’s feelings towards the military - namely, that we are just a budget item.

I’m concerned about this bill secondly because I am a computer enthusiast - I received my B.S. in Computer Science from the Military Academy. I firmly believe net neutrality is essential to free and open use of the internet, which is to say that the internet would not be the amazing communications platform that it is today without the principle of neutrality. At the beginning of the internet, America Online (AOL) tried to create a content network that would retain their customers within that network, so that customers would only use AOL’s services. The colossal failure of that company stemmed directly from that effort. Consumers should be able to access whatever they want on the internet; that is, in a nutshell, the beauty of the technology. Allowing providers to restrict users to only that company’s content defeats the entire purpose of the internet.

Please rethink your position on net neutrality.

Thank you for your consideration.

Any thoughts?

Oh, and here’s why I think net neutrality is a good thing.


Update: Below is Senator Hutchison’s response.

Dear Friend:
Thank you for contacting me regarding the Federal Communications Commission’s actions relating to the openness of the Internet. I welcome your thoughts and comments.

The Internet is a valuable tool that facilitates business, education, and recreation for millions of Americans. In 2009, an estimated 198 million Americans had access to the Internet at home or work. I am committed to ensuring that consumers continue to benefit from the Internet as an open platform for innovation and commerce, supporting growth in content, devices, and applications.

Instrumental to the success of the Internet is the longstanding policy of keeping the Internet as free as possible from burdensome government regulations. Increased investment in upgrading and expanding America’s communications infrastructure, and, in particular, new broadband networks, will ensure that all Americans have access to affordable high-speed Internet. However, in my judgment, intensified regulation of the Internet, such as government-mandated treatment of data, would stifle competition and would decrease the incentive for network operators to invest in critical infrastructure.

The case for additional broadband regulatory authority, or “net neutrality,” has not effectively been made. Broadband investment began to truly flourish when the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) made a decision in 2002 to remove advanced communications technologies from the antiquated common carrier regulatory framework. However, advocates of a larger regulatory footprint have continued to call for a net neutrality regime since 2006, resulting in the 2007 FCC decision to cite Comcast Corporation for a violation of the agency’s open Internet principles. Comcast appealed this decision. On April 6, 2010, the D.C. Court of Appeals ruled against the FCC, holding that the authority cited by the Commission was not sufficient to justify the Commission’s actions.

Unfortunately, the FCC chose to respond to this court decision by beginning a new proceeding that would reverse the 2002 decision to treat advanced communications services with a “light touch” regulatory approach. This proceeding could result in the application of monopoly-era phone rules to a vibrant marketplace, which will stifle innovation and investment. Congress is considering approaches to clarify FCC authority over broadband technologies that do not result in the return of out-dated rules.

Should legislation be brought for consideration before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, of which I am the Ranking Member, you may be certain I will keep your views in mind.

I appreciate hearing from you, and I hope that you will not hesitate to contact me on any issue that is important to you.

Sincerely,
Kay Bailey Hutchison
United States Senator