THE BLOG

A Government Working to Help Innovation

10/30/2013 10:47 pm ET | Updated Jan 23, 2014
  • Eva M. Clayton Former Congresswoman and former Assistant Director General of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization

In today's partisan political environment, headlines and policy debates are too often driven by over-the-top rhetoric, scare tactics and loose facts. All too often, however, the issues that may make for good political theatre or fundraising appeals fail to address the issues most concerning to the majority of hard working Americans.

Frustratingly the hyper-partisanship in Washington stands in the way of progress; progress that could improve the lives of Americans and industries that wish to invest in our advancement as a nation. Take for example, the discussion surrounding Internet policy.

No technology has evolved as quickly or transformed our lives as dramatically as broadband Internet. Yet, instead of focusing on the most important issues that face our nation's communications system like universal access and adoption of broadband, getting more spectrum into the marketplace and leveraging the Internet to deliver new and innovative healthcare and education services, some in Washington want to rehash the net neutrality debates of the past.

Consumers are not knocking the doors down in Washington, sending emails or jamming the phone lines telling their representatives to fix "the Internet problem" like we see with healthcare, immigration and the government shutdown. Why? Because the Internet is working tremendously well and is delivering cheaper, faster and innovative services to consumers. The social benefits of the Internet are often discussed but the real "digital" benefits to society are starting to be seen through better access to healthcare delivery and lower costs, instant access to educational resources and a greener planet through new energy sustainability problems dependent upon broadband.

The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals recently heard oral arguments in regards to an appeal of the Federal Communication Commission's (FCC) 2010 Open Internet Order, which prevents Internet providers from contracting for priority internet service or blocking Internet traffic. One argument that showcases the problem is that these rules stymie the Internet we have today giving consumers less choice and businesses less flexibility in the types of products and services offered to consumers now and into the future.

Today's broadband Internet is working for consumers, but what does the broadband Internet look like in the future? Even the smartest engineer in the room wouldn't want to predict what tomorrow's Internet looks like which is why we need a regulatory structure that encourages consumer-friendly business models to deliver better and cheaper Internet access or more content to consumers -- not regulations that limit the ability for investment and opportunity.

Take, for example, a company which offers a wide range of free educational resources for students and parents wants to enter into an agreement with an Internet provider, and pay for data use charges or a faster connection for students while they access the educational content. This is a great deal for the student living in rural areas because it provides access to valuable content at no additional cost.

This is exactly the type of arrangement that net neutrality rules alter. Advocates of these rules must worry less about sticking it to "big Internet companies" and more about expanding adoption and providing access to communities that will be better served as a result.

The flexibility for these types of business models is why the Internet has succeeded because growth is driven by consumer choice and demand for new content, applications, and services. In the early days of the Internet, President Clinton and his FCC Chairman William Kennard intentionally decided not to impose regulations on the Internet that would lock in place the innovation that brings real benefits to consumers.

The Internet plays a vital role for enabling individuals and communities both rural and urban to reach their full God-given potential. Our focus should be on policies that will deliver opportunity to those that lack it and not on fixing something that is not broken.